Middle School Leadership Lesson: I TOLD YOU SO!


Wisdom not heeded is wasted. Often times we seek advice or wisdom” from others, but we don’t take that advice when it is given.

Our reaction is often: “WHAT?  You want me to do what? HA!”  

On Wisdom and Advice

This is especially true when we consider our interactions with children.  Whether it be your own kids or the students we interact with in the halls of their school.  So often, children seek the insight and advice of the adults around them. However, they are also seeking the “advice” from their peers.

And the “advice” coming from their peers around them is not “wisdom-driven.”

We want to listen to the advice of our peer set, but where is their advice coming from? Often times, the very people we are seeking our advice from, should very well be seeking that same advice.

And to top that, often times we forget to even consider that the people we are seeking advice from, might have ulterior motives of their own and their own advice is not even coming from wisdom, but selfish motivations.

Proverbs 16:22 (NIV) states:

Understanding is a fountain of life to those who have it, but folly brings punishment to fools.”  Whether you are coming from a faith base, or not; this is great advice to all.

Listening to Fools

What happens when we take the advice of the unwise?  Or, when we choose to not even seek wise counsel?  We fall victim to whatever may come.

However, when we seek and take the advice of the authentically wise, we are seeking guidance from those who have already been through what we are seeking advice about.

Plato wrote: 

We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when adults are afraid of the light.”

Giving Advice

How does this transfer to the “real world” or the business world?  I firmly believe it is the same in the work place.  Have you ever been in the office and someone has sought out your advice? It can go one of three ways:

  1. The advice you give could be coming from your personal experience and benefit them
  2. You tell them you don’t have the experience to really help them
  3. You could give advice without the wisdom needed to truly be an authentic guide and hurt them

Which one are you?  How are you helping the person that is seeking advice or wisdom?

Seeking Advice

You could be the one in the office who really needs help and you know who to ask to get the right answer, but you let pride stand in your way, therefore you do not ask at all.  You know that you need the right answer, but you are afraid to approach the person who has the right answers; they might see you as weak or inept.

What should you do?  Is asking for help really wrong?

Is seeking advice from a wise counsel really a bad thing?  Often, it IS seen as a “bad” thing to not know the answer(s).  WHY? I often tell students that, “…smart people ask for help or guidance.”  I firmly believe it is the same in the work place.

I would rather guide an employee correctly through the process, than to have to spend unnecessary or unavailable time undoing what the person has spent time doing incorrectly because that person didn’t seek help from someone wise.

Finding the Answer

When I interview prospective candidates to join my team, one of the questions I ask every time is this: :

 “When you need help, or you might not know the right thing to do,  how do you handle this dilemma?”

In asking this question, what I am looking for is if you can either answer my question or find someone who knows the answer.

  • As a leader or “boss,” do you create this culture/environment in your office?
  • Do your employees fear “not knowing the right answer
  • Or do your employees know that it is better to ask when they need help than to make potentially irreparable mistakes?

By embracing this concept that asking questions is “okay”, then you naturally create a collaborative and corporate approach to systemic success.  It is no longer about personal success, but rather you turn your focus to a global focus on your group, team, or business / organization success.

Professional Challenge

I challenge you to evaluate your climate and culture in your office, business, school, or group of colleagues.

  • How do you make sure it is not only “ok” to ask questions from the wise, but critical to the success of the organization you are serving?
  • How can you encourage and model that asking questions from the wise is tantamount to the growth of your employees, your stakeholders, and the company or organization you are serving?

Aristotle stated, “The more you know, the more you know you don’t know.”

What does that have to do with leadership and success? Wisdom not heeded is wasted…what does that mean to you?

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Brian Dawson

Brian Dawson, M. Ed. is a Middle School Principal and Independent Consultant
He serves with Educational Restructure, Transformation, and Systems Specialist
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