An Introduction to The Wise Leader by Uli Chi

By Uli Chi | Board Chair, Virginia Mason Franciscan Health

A reasonable question you might ask is: Why a book on wise leadership? By one count, over 50,000 books on Amazon have leadership in their title. So, why another book on leadership?

We live in an information-rich age. But despite having the world’s knowledge at our fingertips and living in a generation that has more information than any that’s gone before, we continue to struggle with immense challenges. Simply knowing more and being smarter isn’t enough to navigate today’s world. As the American novelist Wendell Berry once wrote, “You can get all A’s and still flunk life.”

We live in a world that requires more than just information, knowledge, and expertise. We need what the ancients called wisdom.

People continue to suffer from fatigue and burnout at work and at home. While technology enables people to be more connected digitally, many feel even more isolated and alone. Rather than the COVID pandemic bringing us together, we see increased polarization in our workplaces, churches, and other public institutions. We also continue to struggle with political and economic volatility and disruptions both in this country and around the world.

All this suggests to me that our generation needs a recovery of wisdom. We need wisdom that helps people see themselves as part of a larger and longer redemptive story. We need wisdom that provides hope and imagination for their lives and work. We need wisdom that encourages their resilience and sustains their endurance in the middle of turmoil and suffering. We need wisdom that teaches us how to work together across our deep differences.

On the last point, the Christian community should be the prime place where we can model how we work out our deepest differences. Instead, we have struggled with division and polarization as much, if not more so, than the culture around us. We have forgotten Jesus’ wisdom expressed in his new commandment: “Love one another just as I have loved you.” And we have missed out on Jesus’ corresponding promise: “By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”

I know that’s a challenging word for the Christian community today. But I’m sure it was no easier in Jesus’ day. I find it instructive to look at Jesus’ inner circle of leaders. In one corner, we see the staunch conservative Matthew, the Tax Collector. In the other, we find the flaming liberal, Simon the Zealot. From the beginning,

Jesus calls together people of diametrically opposed and incompatible political convictions – one a collaborator with the Roman Empire and another a revolutionary committed to its overthrow. Somehow, they learned to follow Jesus and to “love one another just as I have loved you.”

That should give us all some hope. And that’s but one example of how Christian wisdom can reshape who we become and how we live in the world.

Unfortunately, we live in an age where that kind of biblical wisdom has been largely ignored or forgotten. As the narrator at the beginning of the movie The Lord of the Rings says about her age: “Some things that should not have been forgotten were lost.” I hope this book will make a small contribution to recovering what has been neglected, if not lost altogether in our century.

Center for Faithful Business

Seattle Pacific University

Dr. JoAnn Flett, Executive Director


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