Do you know of an organization that lacks wise leadership and advisers directing that organization? If you do, then that organization will fail.
John Maxwell says, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” And, in a way, this is true.
The Bible attests to this, and I am sure that Maxwell’s thought was probably not original with him but instead was derived from his study of the Bible.
Picture from the NLT Study Bible
The book of Proverbs in the Bible mentions the word “leader” or “leadership” six different times. The first time the book mentions leadership is here:
Without wise leadership, a nation falls; there is safety in having many advisers. – Proverbs 11:14 (NLT)
Sadly, there are nations in our world who do not have wise leadership. Some of the conflicts occurring in Ukraine reference this right now.
Based on my own reading of the Hebrew text here are two thoughts about the language as I studied the literal meaning of this verse:
- The reference to “nation falls” is more literally “a people will fall down [or ‘get down’].” The people in this context is probably a nation since this is a proverb spoken by Solomon, the King of Israel. (You always need to take into account the “social context” of who is speaking in the Hebrew as that relates to the meaning of the word.)
- The reference to “many advisers” is more literally “multitude/abundance” of advisers. It is not clear that a multitude or abundance might mean as far as actual number, but the text clearly implies more than two, three, or four. Instead, “many” advisers creates safety for a nation.
The Expositor’s Bible Commentary speaks about this proverb saying, “The term tahbulot (guidance) is comparable to steering a ship, here a ship of state (see Whybray, 67; Pr. 1:15); without it the nation is in danger” (p. 117).
Bruce Waltke, in the New International Commentary on the Old Testament, writes about this proverb that, “This verse notes ‘the need for wise counsel and counselors to achieve communal success'” (p. 495.). In other words, a nation or community cannot achieve success without wise counsel and leadership. He continues that the book of “Proverbs never speak of a single counselor but of an abundance of counselors who assemble to form a sod (‘counsel’; cf. 11:13; 15:22; 20:18; 24:6) and to arrive at a plan. The proverb counters the danger of caucus-dominated political practices” (p. 496). Waltke connects this proverb to the broader theme of the book of Proverbs that a single counselor is never touted as the way to have effective leadership. Instead, a plurality of leaders is always presented and advocated.
The following verses affirm Walke’s statements about leaders having counsel of advisers:
“Plans go wrong for lack of advice; many advisers bring success.” – Proverbs 15:22
“Plans succeed through good counsel; don’t go to war without wise advice.” – Proverbs 20:18
“So don’t go to war without wise guidance; victory depends on having many advisers.” – Proverbs 24:6
Andrew Steinmann in the Condorcia Commentary, Proverbs affirms, “This proverb reminds readers that to be effective, those who govern must rely on a broad range of advice, and most of all they need guidance from God’s word and his faithful people” (p. 293).
This proverb says that there is safety in having many advisers; meaning the nation will survive, but it does not say that the nation will flourish. It implies there might be other things necessary for effective and successful leadership.
Knowing that wise leadership is needed for a nation to not fail and that wise advisers bring stability to a nation, here are a few things you can do to create wise counsel:
- Diversity: Get people who are diverse and different. The benefits of having many advisers is that you can get many different experiences and thoughts. My mentor Steve Elliott taught me to always have at least one man and one woman on any committee because men and women are able to see different things.
- Similar Values: Alignment on core values has to be something your advisers have. Even if they have different backgrounds and experiences (as I advocate for above) they need to have alignment on core values.
- Same Vision: If your advisers have the same vision for your organization, they will be able to help you move in the direction to get there. Their advice and counsel about how to get that vision accomplished will be different (which is a good thing), but your advisers need to have the same vision.
In light of this proverb a leader’s role is to bring consensus from these advisers to the organization he leads. His job is to listen to advice, weigh it out, and then provide direction for the organization. And, when he does this, he will keep that nation from falling.
Question: What are your favorite proverbs from the Bible and how do they relate to leadership?