The CONNECTION Between Wise Counsel and Great Leadership

If there is one frustration that sits at the top of the list of my 40+ year career is the unwillingness of CEOs to listen to outside counsel. It’s mind boggling to me how so many leaders are tone deaf to counsel.

I find it’s usually driven by ego, arrogance, a lack of humility, or deep insecurity—or some combination of these. And what is most shocking is that I find that Christian leaders are more likely to reject outside counsel than non-Christian leaders.

That is just plain wrong.

In Proverbs 15:22 we are told, “Plans fail for lack of counsel, but with many advisers they succeed.” HELLO! You would think that every Christian leader would be leaning into counsel from those who are experts in their field.

Nope. Too many think they know best. And with dire consequences for their organization.

For example, there is a CEO who took the reins of one organization not long ago and decided he could drive the e-communications. Seriously. So, he has taken personal responsibility to write and send their emails.

Oh my. Their case is worst practice, not best, and their income is suffering along with the perception of their brand. And sadly, this closed-mindedness bleeds into other areas as well, causing the organization to flounder.

There are literally dozens of examples just like this that I could relate right now… but there are also examples of those who get it right.

I can think of one organization whose former leader struggled to take counsel. The result was the organization was not moving forward but rather caught in the backwash of indecision. Their reach, impact, and income were stalled.

That leader ended up stepping down and a new leader was appointed, and it was as though the lights came on. This new leader measured each decision very carefully, and while he didn’t act on each thing we recommended, overall he trusted our advice and the results have been nothing short of amazing.

Today they have a surplus in income, their social reach has expanded to nearly 300,000 people from just over 2,000 18 months ago, they have funding to expand programs, and their subscriber list has tripled.

The contrast is stark. In 18 months of not listening to counsel they had gone nowhere. And in 18 months of listening to counsel they are experiencing explosive growth. And that growth is a credit to the CEO’s leadership, not our counsel, because our counsel is irrelevant without the CEO willing to take and apply that advice.

If you seek outside counsel, you are not less of a leader, you are more of a leader. Why? Because you show one of the most vital character traits of an effective leader and that is self-awareness. You show that you know that you don’t know it all. And you show that you are willing to believe what God says, that plans will succeed with a multitude of counselors.

I personally find outside counsel a welcome relief. There is nothing more refreshing than being confronted with a significant challenge only to know there is someone in my sphere I can turn to for counsel.

Not long ago our company was going through a challenging time. I was really struggling to know how to deal with it best. So I reached out to three trusted advisors to gain their perspective. Oh my. What incredible wisdom.

They saw things I didn’t see. They had insight on people that I was blind to. And they had wisdom and counsel on how to move forward that was desperately needed. I took their counsel and can say that I honestly don’t know what I would have done if I didn’t have them to lean on.

Are you a leader who invites counsel and wisdom, and is willing to not just listen to it but act on it? If so, you demonstrate one of the most vital characteristics of great leadership.

If not – while it may sound harsh – you need to question whether you are a leader at all.


More Insights from Dunham+Company: The CONNECTION Between Self-Awareness and Great Leadership by Rick Dunham 

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