“What I Know” v. “What I Do”

Uncategorized Apr 18, 2024

I have found that many leadership principles overlap with Christian principles. Sometimes, when I teach leadership, I find myself teaching Christian principles without necessarily quoting the book, chapter, and verse of scripture that provides the foundation for that principle. Sometimes, when I teach Christian principles, I realize how closely they relate to leadership in the business world.

One of those overlapping principles that I find important is the concept of leading from "what I do” rather than “what I know.” I’d like to explain this principle from a leadership perspective and then a biblical one. I hope that if you are a businessperson functioning in leadership, this will build you up and challenge you. And if you are a believer, this will also build you up and challenge you.

A simple fact about great leaders is that they are constantly growing. A great leader is a growing leader. Personal growth is a necessary trait in effective leadership. Leaders must consistently challenge themselves to expand, develop better character, try new skills, and learn from other leaders. Great leaders are great students because it takes a student mentality to continue to grow.

The humility that comes from struggling through a growth process causes leaders to lead better. After all, pride and arrogance are often hallmarks of leaders in the business world, especially the higher up the corporate ladder they climb. Continuing to grow and challenge oneself personally contributes to one’s humility. And a humble leader is always a better leader.

But there is another important effect of growing that leaders should keep in mind. When a leader stops growing, he or she quickly moves out of leading and starts managing. A natural characteristic of leaders is that they teach others what they are currently learning. So when a leader is growing, he or she consistently teaches those that he or she leads from that spirit of personal growth.

When a leader stops learning, the only thing left is the knowledge they have already acquired - knowledge that has come from past growth, past experiences, or perhaps a past education level. A leader’s knowledge is like capital. When leaders stop growing, they begin to borrow against the capital of knowledge and experiences they have amassed in the past. The longer they borrow from that capital, the more depleted it will become. The more their leadership approach will become routine, mundane, and mechanical. Eventually, their leadership battery will drain. Inevitably, they will act like managers rather than leaders.

So, if you lead out of what you know, you will eventually deplete. However, your leadership effectiveness will increase if you lead from what you do (e.g., growing, learning).

Now, let's look at the same principle from a biblical perspective. Take a statement that Paul made in Philippians 4:9 (NLT): “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” He doesn't tell the believer, “Congratulations. You’ve learned all that you have heard and seen me doing." He tells the believers to keep "putting into practice” what they have heard and seen Paul doing.

One of the toughest challenges of being a believer in Christ is that it is easy to talk about knowledge, information, and theology from the Bible. It is a much greater challenge to put those theories into practice. The act of “putting things into practice” for a Christian is similar to the challenge of growing as a leader constantly. Great Christians are not just great disciples. They are great disciple-makers. This means that Christians will inevitably become ministers to other people. When Christians stop “putting into practice” what they learn, they cease to minister from the fullness of the Spirit, and they begin ministering out of the borrowed capital of their Bible knowledge.

Something is compelling about a Christian who consistently moves to practically apply the theories, teachings, and information they learn from Scripture. A growing Christian is constantly applying what they learn. They consistently put it into practice. Listen to how Paul emphasizes the application of theory.

In Philippians 4, Paul gives a list of commands to his readers that lead up to his challenge for them to continue “putting into practice” what they have learned. In Philippians 4:2, Paul challenges his readers to "live in harmony." In Philippians 4:4–5, he challenges them to "rejoice" and to maintain a "gentle spirit." In Philippians 4:6, he challenges them to pray instead of worry. In Philippians 4:7, he challenges them to actually "experience" the peace of God, allowing it to continually guard their heart and mind. In Philippians 4:8, he challenges them to think about what is "true, honorable, right, pure, lovely, and admirable.” 

Paul does not merely give them theories. Paul challenges them with actions. Why? Because a growing Christian will minister out of the growth they are experiencing. However, a Christian who ceases to grow will start borrowing from the supply of knowledge they have already acquired. Their effectiveness will soon become stale.

If you think that if a believer has a vast amount of knowledge about the Bible, they can afford to stop growing, there is a critical fact about this principle that is slightly different for a Christian than it is for a leader. For Christians, consistent growth means having a daily experience with God through His Word, prayer, and listening to Him. It requires that they spend time in God’s presence each day. The presence of God is a transformative factor in a believer's life. When a believer attempts to minister out of only past knowledge, they cease to spend time in God's presence, which diminishes their effectiveness. In short, when a believer ministers, it is actually the spirit of Christ ministering through them to reach other people. Therefore, consistently spending time in God's presence is necessary, not optional.

So there you have it. From a leadership perspective, what you do (growing, learning) makes you lead effectively. From a Christian perspective, what you do ("putting into practice") makes you minister effectively, primarily because it keeps you consistently in the presence of God.

Don't just know it. Do it.


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