Partnering for Success: Why Going It Alone Just Doesn’t Get You Very Far
This article was written by Lukas Naugle & Sam Weatherford and published by Faith Driven Entrepreneur
Sergeant “B.A.” Baracus regularly played the hero in the ‘80s A-Team TV series. Every American kid-fan dreamed of donning his signature mohawk (some of us gave it a shot). He was fearless and relied on brute strength to solve his problems. There were few he couldn’t overcome, but the resulting destruction often produced as many problems as it solved.
Enter Hannibal Smith, the tactician and leader of the crew, who preferred a disguise and a more calculated approach to the bull-in-a-china-shop methods of his demolition-savvy partner. “I love it when a plan comes together” became his preferred catchphrase in the heat of battle, demonstrating his desire to outthink his opponents and rely more on brains than brawn.
When he couldn’t outmaneuver the enemy via ingenuity, however, B.A. was there to run through whatever wall stood between the team and their goal—literally.
Founded in the Godhead
Wisdom and strength together enabled the success of the A-Team, and that shouldn’t be a surprise to believers. The union of the two weaves throughout God’s story, initially within God Himself. Scripture describes each person of the Godhead as possessing both wisdom and might, God the Father (Daniel 2:20), God the Son (1 Corinthians 1:23), and God the Holy Spirit.
Wisdom and strength not only exist in the Godhead, they exude from God into creation. He is the source of might (Job 12:13-25) and wisdom (James 1:5, 3:17). And in His image, we, by His deep and unending grace, can be recipients of both, for His glory and our good. Scripture offers varied examples of their application:
Wisdom and strength together in a person: Solomon, at least for a time (1 Kings 1-11)
Together in a partnership: Jonathan and David (1 Samuel 18-20)
Together in an organization: Joseph (Genesis 39-46)
Together in a team: David and Nathan (2 Sam 12; 1 Kings 1; 1 Chron 17)
It is the combination of both characteristics that breeds success, but wisdom and strength each present in very different ways for different purposes and with differing outcomes:
Physical Health, Beauty, Strength
Algorithms to live by
Maps and Models
Knowledge, Insight, Understanding
On its own, each also tends to fall short in some way:
Insightful Theory, but no traction
Tortures soul, overlooked, discounted, silenced, discouraged
Frustrated with understanding dynamics, but unable to effect change
Ready, fire, aim. Shoot yourself in the foot.
Oops. Just kidding.
Bull in a china shop
Frustrated with lots of energy/activity but little to show for it
The Underestimated Value of Wisdom
Strength has long been celebrated in almost every culture above other attributes. Might has been the impetus for admiration and leadership, despite a lack of wisdom in many cases, and the results have been mixed, at best.
A cursory look at history—political leadership, the onslaught of pastoral failures, business leaders who’ve rapidly scaled their companies without concern for fallout—demonstrates that strength alone, though often at least temporarily successful, does not make up for a lack of wisdom. Yet still, we value strength over wisdom. In our businesses, we staff for strength but rarely for wisdom. Wisdom is not baked in but is outsourced to external professional services such as counseling, coaching, and consulting.
The Overwhelming Nature of Power
Strength is visible and tangible. It draws attention, and we are willing to invest substantial amounts of money and time to develop strength—even to simply admire it. Americans spend well over $100B a year on sports, and more than half of that is spent attending sporting events, celebrating strength, and idolizing the mighty.
The fitness industry in the U.S. has surpassed $100B and continues to grow, while some of the most influential athletes in the world receive more than $300K for a single social media post as an influencer. The same can be said of powerful business leaders who lend their voices or images to back a product in the marketplace.
And it works. When powerful people endorse a certain product, we spend whatever it takes to attain it ourselves because we want to be perceived as powerful in the same way.
There is a natural, cultural bias towards strength, and it shows in our spending. Parents will spend thousands of dollars on sports equipment, training, lessons, and travel and expend untold hours delivering their children to practices and games in various places without batting an eye. They train their children to accomplish their goals through strength and discipline.
Wisdom is the Secret Sauce
Wisdom is not so clearly seen. It doesn’t get the same screen time as strength, so it doesn’t create a stir, and our culture doesn’t celebrate it in the same way. Strength is accessible, fungible, transactable, and commodifiable. Strength is elevated, but wisdom is required to build something that lasts—to build something excellent and beautiful.Strength can plow ahead, break down barriers, open doors, create opportunity, and generate results.
Wisdom is what is behind the scenes, enabling the effective use of power to achieve results. Wisdom addresses if, how, and when results should be generated. It is not focused solely on accomplishing; it seeks accomplishment in the right way with the right outcomes. It informs strength about when to plow and on which rows, which doors should be opened and how hard they should be kicked, and which opportunities will produce the best results. So, history and Scripture implore each of us, “If you must choose, choose wisdom before strength!”
But when faced with the choice—the wise or the strong—don’t we choose the strong? Our intuition tells us that the strong must possess some wisdom. Otherwise, they would not have become so strong. But Scripture refuses to mince words and demands that the right choice is the opposite. When faced with such a dilemma, choose wisdom. You most likely won’t win any fame or fortune in the near term, but you will be making the right bet.
Proverbs 24:3-6 –The Message Bible
It takes wisdom to build a house, and understanding to set it on a firm foundation;
It takes knowledge to furnish its rooms with fine furniture and beautiful draperies.
It’s better to be wise than strong; intelligence outranks muscle any day.
Strategic planning is the key to warfare; to win, you need a lot of good counsel.
14 I have counsel and sound wisdom; I have insight; I have strength.
15 By me kings reign, and rulers decree what is just;
16 by me princes rule, and nobles, all who govern justly.
17 I love those who love me, and those who seek me diligently find me.
18 Riches and honor are with me, enduring wealth and righteousness.
Ecclesiastes 7:19 –The Message Bible
Wisdom puts more strength in one wise person than ten strong men give to a city.
It is quite telling that in each of these passages, wisdom is valued over strength—even in battle! And it is not by a small amount—one man’s strength gained through wisdom is greater than ten strong men who lack wisdom! Wisdom not only builds strength, but it also enables efficiency and effectiveness (Ecclesiastes 10:10) and helps the wise to succeed.
Wisdom Is Worth the Investment
Buy truth, and do not sell it; buy wisdom, instruction, and understanding.
Our businesses, our churches, and our organizations are often built on the backs of the powerful and energetic, whose broad shoulders can carry the weight of the work, create a following, and make things happen that are simply outside the reach of others. They are an integral part of creating and sustaining work. Every worthwhile effort needs a strong leader to tear down walls and drive through difficulty.
But it is folly when strength works alone, regularly leading to compromise and the vulnerable being run over along the way. Yet as valued companions, wisdom and strength together usher in God’s peace, flourishing, abundance, and justice.
At any given moment, we have a knowledge of and desire for far more than we can achieve or possess. This gap creates a hunger, a pain, and even a sense of injustice. It is the impetus for new enterprise and thriving churches when wisdom and strength are employed to close the gap between our desires and reality.
If we are honest with ourselves, we regularly spend time in wishful thinking, longing, complaining, and lamenting.
If only I had known.
If only I had the brain power.
If only I had control.
If only I had the time, opportunity, resources, money, or capital.
If only I had the access and the connections.
If only I had the pedigree or the resume.
If only I had the body, looks, or genes.
If only I had the team and the tools.
If only I could afford it or could spend the time.
If only I could be at two places at the same time.
The mighty answer the “if only” problems with strength in numbers, technology, resources, and volume. Everyone notices, everyone pays attention, and everyone remembers.
But the book of Ecclesiastes reminds us of the counterintuitive secret (9:14-17)—that wisdom is better than might and weapons and that wisdom’s whispers in the quiet are better than the mighty’s shouts to the crowds.
14 There was a little city with few men in it, and a great king came against it and besieged it, building great siege-works against it.
15 But there was found in it a poor, wise man, and he by his wisdom delivered the city. Yet no one remembered that poor man.
16 But I say that wisdom is better than might, though the poor man’s wisdom is despised and his words are not heard.
17 The words of the wise heard in quiet are better than the shouting of a ruler among fools.
18 Wisdom is better than weapons of war, but one sinner destroys much good.
This feels right, but it also seems unbelievably naive. I mean, who wants to be poor, alone, forgotten, and unheard? Or who would be willing to take a chance on listening to the poor, wise man? He’s not an influencer, and his endorsement wouldn’t build a platform at all.
Yet, though his words are free, their value far surpasses those of the strong leader.
Wisdom & Strength Together
Like our heroes from the A-Team, we strive to address the long list of “if only” problems through the healthy partnership of the wise and the strong, avoiding the pitfall of relying too heavily on one or the other. Brute strength offers expediency but yields less than favorable, short-term results. Wisdom imagines a path forward but gains no traction that actively advances the cause.
Looking again to Scripture and to history, we are reminded that success is found when humanity organizes to pool God-given wisdom and strength in order to overcome injustice and undergird human flourishing. Thus, we createintentional organization—our businesses included—by hiring, training, prioritizing, and funding for wisdom and strength in order to bring about abundance and peace for the praise and honor of Jesus Christ, the power and wisdom of God.
In order to be successful—
Finding the right team matters.
Building the right board matters.
Filling the gaps in your organization with great advisors and consultants matters.
We were not made to go it alone. But wisdom and strength in partnership together bring justice and flourishing. They bring shalom.