This week, wisdom from the book of Proverbs talks about the different kinds of people we meet and interact with in our daily lives. It breaks people into one of five categories: the wise, the fool, the simple, the scoffer, and the evil. The way each of these people responds to criticism is one of the critical ways they are separated from each other — the wise person accepts feedback with grace; the simple person does not understand or respond to the feedback; the fool understands the feedback but does not accept it; the scoffer becomes angry at the invitation of feedback; and the wicked person will retaliate in response to feedback.
I feel like I can confidently assume that we’ve all met each of these people at some point in our lives. And, if I’m being honest, I can remember certain times and situations in my life where I have acted in each of the ways noted. While I’d like to say that I have always accepted feedback with grace and changed because of it, I am acutely aware of the times that I have played the part of the fool or the simple person. Hopefully, I’m not alone.
Good leaders are wise individuals who know how to work with people of all kinds, especially those that the Proverbs describe. Looking to history, we can find influential leaders in all sorts of capacities, and through their examples, we might find a story to tell or an action to emulate.
St. Joan of Arc is a great example — a teenage girl with a vision, she convinced the Dauphin to allow her to lead French troops into battle. Her energy and vision helped lift the siege of Orléans in just nine days of fighting; the city had been under attack for over seven months without respite before her arrival. Doing this required that she coordinate with the Duke of Orleans, who would actively exclude her from strategy meetings and attempted to stop her from riding into battle with the soldiers. The Book of Proverbs might call the Duke a wicked person, for his intentional acts of sabotage to her leadership despite the fact that they were fighting for the same cause. Nonetheless, she persisted — and succeeded.
You don’t have to be a saint to be an admirable leader, though. People like Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela were catapulted into roles of incredible prominence by virtue of their refusal to remain silent in the face of oppressive regimes. A woman named Nellie Bly became an accidental journalist after writing a scathing letter to the editor of her local paper. She went on to write about labor laws, women’s rights, and political corruption in Mexico. She also had herself committed to a mental institution for 10 days in order to document the appalling conditions. Her report spurred a movement for radical change in the care of the mentally ill.
Being a wise leader means stepping up when necessary, stepping back to allow others onto the platform, and being open to working with difficult people. Prayers of patience, grace, and acceptance help bridge the gaps, and help make us wise, effective leaders and team members.
--Claire Kosewic, Staff Bulletin Writer
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