"A good name is rather to be chosen than great riches."
--King Solomon, Proverbs 22:1
How often do you hear the terms wisdom, discernment, and integrity used during the business day?
And just what are organizations looking for when they are hiring or promoting?
We hear words like intelligent, problem-solver, action-oriented, results-driven, and good decision-making ability.
But what good are any of those if they aren't carried out with wisdom, discernment, and integrity?
It's possible to be action-oriented and still take a lot of wrong actions.
Does intelligence guarantee sound leadership? History reveals that
many leaders with intelligence that was clearly "above average" have
oppressed their people, ruined their economies, and even committed
What Are We Dealing With Here?
First, some slightly paraphrased definitions from Merriam-Webster Online.
Wisdom: ability to discern inner qualities and relationships : (insight) c : good sense : (judgment).
power to distinguish and select what is true or appropriate or
excellent; the quality of being able to grasp and comprehend what is
adherence to a code of especially moral or artistic values :
(incorruptibility); the quality or state of being complete or undivided
Why Do They Make a Difference?
Let's start with integrity. It's probably the easiest to deal with and something that we do talk about on the job, at least when it is violated.
a difference because it's an outward indication of our internal
character. If we say we have a set of "corporate" values and then live
by them--even if it means sacrificing extra revenue--then we are known
as having integrity. When we live up to our word, we have integrity.
Most of all, integrity is what allows a person or a company to be
When you possess wisdom,
you are able to make judgments that go beneath the surface issue or
decision being presented. My observation and experience show that those
possessing wisdom have actually learned from their previous experiences
and mistakes; have confronted their own part in them; and now are able
to see more clearly what is happening within other people and other
situations. Maturity--not age alone--is necessary for wisdom.
probably the least-used word in business. It implies a well-honed
wisdom that allows one to accurately "read between the lines" when
dealing with people and situations and see what is true. You and I know lots of people who say "I know how to 'read' people. However, I don't really know lots of people who discern the truth very well at all.
What Happens in The Absence of Those Three ?
When we hire and promote based upon education, experience, and
behavioral traits, we're still working on the surface. To get "keepers"
we need to dig one level deeper.
At a business luncheon meeting a few years ago our well-educated,
high-level executive speaker spent his entire block of time talking
about his accomplishments, what he was going to achieve in the coming
year, and the plan to get there. When he asked for questions, the guy
next to me said something gutsy. He said:
"I'm sorry. Who you are spoke so loudly that I wasn't able to hear what you had to say."
My neighbor had discerned the self-centered character of the presenter. The speaker had not discerned
the values, maturity and character of his audience. As a result, his
accomplishments couldn't overcome the low regard in which his peers
began to hold him as a result of his bravado. It was a defining moment
that impacted his career mobility.
When we're hiring and promoting, wouldn't it be worthwhile to know who we're getting--not just what we're getting?
It seems to me that we need to understand at least three things in order to make that happen:
1. What "kind of people" do we want? (What values do we hold that need to be evident in our people)?
2. What does it take to develop the wisdom and discernment needed in business?
3. How are you acquiring your wisdom in a way that leads to discernment and integrity?
How much value does your organization openly place on these?
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