Years ago I learned a simple lesson while watching a teaching by Bobb Biehl, an Executive Mentor. He said if you ask no questions, you get no answers. If you ask simple questions you will get simple answers. If you ask powerful questions you will get powerful answers. Super simple—yet super profound.

One of the smartest people to have ever lived is an ancient king by the name of Solomon. In the night, God appeared to Solomon and told him to ask for whatever he wanted. Solomon could have asked for riches, fame, glory, or anything but he said “Give me wisdom and knowledge, that I may lead these people.”

How many of us when given the opportunity to ask for the wish of our dreams would actually ask for wisdom? My guess is not many.

Recently, while listening to one of my favorite podcasts (Helping leaders go further faster by Andy Stanley) I learned about the greatest question ever.

Andy Stanley, in his book Ask It proposes the most powerful question to ask. When pondering a difficult decision, a challenging task, or an important area of focus the greatest question to ask is: What is the wise thing to do?

The question isn’t what is the best thing, what is the easiest thing, what is the least bad thing, it is what is the wise thing to do. Further, Stanley says to frame the question by saying…

In light of my past experiences, my current situation and my future hopes and dreams, what is the wise thing to do?

I recently had a great opportunity to use this line of questioning. My son, who is a freshman in high school, was contemplating his elective schedule for his sophomore year. There are a ton of options and most all of them are good. Of course, with several of the options, this either limits or enables him to make other decisions down the road. He was torn; my wife and I weren’t sure how to best direct him and it seemed like the right amount of effort to put into this decision was unclear. Then, I asked him this question. “In light of your past experiences, your current situation and your future hopes and dreams, what electives would be the wise choice for you to take?” It was amazing how instantly he gained some clarity on the situation.

We should all pursue wisdom. We should help others gain it, and we should value experiences where it is gained. When you are challenged with your next big decision, don’t focus on the best decision, the easiest decision or the least bad decision—commit to making the wise decision.

Wisdom is one of the traits of leadership that everyone needs but is so difficult to develop. Wisdom comes in multiple forms. First, wisdom comes with birthdays. Wisdom comes from experiences and by gaining knowledge. Wisdom often comes from the perspective you gain by working through difficult challenges and situations. I once had a mentor tell me that perspective is worth 20 IQ points. You don’t have to be smarter if you can gain a better perspective on your situation.

“The true sign of intelligence is not knowledge, but imagination.” Albert Einstein

Birthdays don’t guarantee you will be wise, and years of experience don’t always translate into learning. I often run into people with 25, 30, or even 40 years of experience, and I recently met someone with 50 years of service to their company. Just because someone has 30 years of service doesn’t necessarily mean they have gained increasing knowledge and wisdom.

Some people have 30 years of experience while plenty others have 1 year of experience repeated 30 times.

Only by learning from and gaining perspective through your experiences will you begin to develop wisdom. Make it your goal to learn as much as you can from every situation and to constantly put yourself in situations that will grow your knowledge, your experience, and most importantly your opportunity to gain wisdom.

Be a great leader and ask it…”What is the wise thing to do?”

Lead well, lead often, lead strong.