Leadership In A Word: Wisdom

“The only true wisdom is in knowing you know nothing.”


A Word about wisdom

In leadership, as in any other discipline, there’s an abundance of available knowledge. There are more voices speaking on the topic today as never before. Be it books, magazines, podcasts, or blogs, the supply is endless.

While that may be great for the consumer, the real challenge rests with its usefulness- how do we bridge the gap between knowledge and application? How do we resolve the disconnect between resources at our fingertips and the wisdom required to apply it?

It reminds me of the story of automaker Henry Ford. He asked electrical genius, Charlie Steinmetz, to build the generators for his factory. One day the generators ground to a halt, and the repairmen couldn’t find the problem.  So Ford called Steinmetz, who tinkered with the machines for a few hours and then threw the switch. The generators whirred to life–but Ford got a bill for $10,000 from Steinmetz. Flabbergasted, the rather tightfisted car maker inquired why the bill was so high. Steinmetz’s reply: “For tinkering with the generators, $10. For knowing where to tinker, $9,990”. Ford paid the bill.

Leadership comes with many challenges and moving parts. Knowing where to tinker is the byproduct of good leadership – knowing the why and when is the wisdom of leadership.

Leadership comes with many challenges and moving parts. Knowing where to tinker is the byproduct of good leadership – knowing the why and when is the wisdom of leadership. So as you consider the necessity of wisdom in leadership, take these points into consideration.

The wisdom of your leadership is found in thinking long

Thinking long gives you the opportunity to thoroughly vet new ideas and solidify long-range goals. It puts things in its proper context. The value of thinking long is that it gives a deeper perspective. It can also save you from the fallout of uninformed flash decisions.

The wisdom of your leadership is found in sound judgment

No leader wants to be behind the curve as it relates to change, new ideas, and being relevant. While it’s tempting to run with the latest trends, the wisdom that you need in leadership helps you to discern whether it’s the right time or even worth pursuing.

The wisdom of your leadership is found in knowing where to tinker

Acquiring the knowledge of leadership is easy. Knowing where to tinker is wisdom. There is some knowledge that can only be attained from experience and in some cases the “school of hard knocks”. Whenever we try to rush the process or think we know it all, we set ourselves up for a fall.

The wisdom of your leadership flows from the heart

Wisdom comes from learning and experience. We must bridge the gap between what we know in our heads and get to the heart of leadership. This takes time and can’t be rushed. There are just some things about leadership – how to lead people, build relationships, etc., that come no other way. (Read “Start With Low Fences” where I give advice for young aspiring leaders).

Wisdom quotes

“Do not forsake wisdom, and she will protect you, love her, and she will watch over you”. – Proverbs 4:6

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see”. – Henry David Thoreau

“A man must be big enough to admit his mistakes, smart enough to profit from them, and strong enough to correct them”.- John Maxwell

“There is a wisdom of the head, and a wisdom of the heart”. – Charles Dickens

“Patience is the companion of wisdom”. – St. Augustine

A final word

Wisdom is a necessary companion to leadership. It will help you, protect you, and serve you well. Don’t get so caught up in what you know or think you know, seek to gain wisdom because it’s the one thing that will keep you grounded and humble.


Doug Dickerson
Doug Dickerson
DOUG has been speaking to audiences in the U.S. and overseas for more than 30 years. Doug knows how to spin a story, make you laugh, and how to challenge your traditional ways of thinking about leadership. Most of all, Doug is committed to helping you grow as a leader. Doug is a graduate of Southeastern University in Lakeland, Florida and studied Clinical Pastoral Education at Palmetto Baptist Medical Center in Columbia, South Carolina. While his leadership expertise has its roots in ministry and teaching. His background also includes public relations and business. Doug understands the necessity of leadership development and why creating a leadership culture in your organization is critical to your success. He is the author of four leadership books including: Leaders Without Borders, 9 Essentials for Everyday Leaders, Great Leaders Wanted, It Only Takes a Minute: Daily Inspiration for Leaders on the Move, and Leadership by the Numbers. As a speaker, Doug delivers practical and applicable leadership insights with a dose of humor and authenticity that endears him to a wide range of audiences. Doug is a John Maxwell Team member.

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