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Leaders Are Listeners

July 2nd, 2013

Listen to advice and accept discipline, and at the end you will be counted among the wise… Stop listening to instruction, my son, and you will stray from the words of knowledge.

Proverbs 19:20,27

Throughout our entire life we will need the wisdom and advice of others. We gain a bit ourselves through the years. We do become wiser if we seek to learn and study and consider our ways. We should also pray to God and seek to know His will, as He reveals it by His Spirit and His Word. Yet none of us will ever completely replace the need for advice, wisdom, and instruction of others. Wisdom should lead us to this realization – that we need advisers our entire life.

So a key to continual growth is a hungry and listening heart, an inquiring mind, and the humility to not assume that we know it all ourselves. Jesus drew a clear line between the standing of the individual with God and the reality of the community of believers. In John 14:23 He said, “Anyone who loves me will obey my teaching. My Father will love them, and we will come to them and make our home with them.” There he referred to the individual believer; we each receive the Spirit at our salvation indwelling us and making a home in our heart. Yet in the next breath, Christ spoke with plural pronouns when in John 14:26 He said, “But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” The apostles needed one another to compile the inspired teachings of Christ, and to know how to live out the truth day by day. All knowledge was not given to just one individual to convey to the world, rather God used John, as well as Peter, James, and even the then hard-hearted Pharisee Saul who became Paul, and the gentile Luke who also was likely unsaved at that time, as well as many others.

An acquaintance of mine in ministry recently turned down a position in ministry because he learned that he would have been expected to listen to the advice of a team of leaders (only listen, not necessarily to follow). He felt that he knew more than the people on the team, that his own experience was also superior, although he has been out of full-time professional ministry for several years, and his positions in ministry have been plagued with leadership conflicts, as well as marked by long breaks in between. I can think of other inspiring leaders I have known that have developed the ability to listen to the advice and insights of others. Rick Warren wrote:

Good leaders are good listeners. If you want to be effective in ministry, you’ll need to be a good listener first. Probably the greatest reason people fail in ministry is not immorality, a lack of intelligence, or poor planning. It’s insensitivity. Most of us simply talk too much. James 1:19 (NIV) says, “Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to become angry.”

The truly wise person is not the one who assumes he knows it all, but the one who has learned that he doesn’t! And learns to listen and gain the advice of others. As we grow in wisdom we will also grow in the awareness of our need of good advisers. Do not be afraid on major decisions to ask trusted colleagues, “What do you think I should do?” You may decide not to follow their advice, but you will probably be much wiser yourself to have heard their perspective on the matter.


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