Wise Leaders Know Who to Ignore and Who to Instruct

All people are created in God’s Image and worthy of dignity and respect. And at the same time, people have different postures towards God and others and we are wise to respond accordingly. Both of these statements are true at the same time, meaning it is possible to treat people with respect and respond according to their posture to God and others. The book of Proverbs teaches us to respond to people differently based on their relationship with wisdom, not their wealth, status, gender, ethnicity, or appearance. As many have noted, the wisdom writer sees some as simple, some as wise, some as fools, and some as mockers. Wisdom instructs you to respond to these people differently. Just by looking at Proverbs 9, you can get a glimpse of the different responses.

Invite the simple.

The simple may be smart, savvy, and intellectual but they have yet to fear the Lord and receive His wisdom. They have yet to experience God and His goodness. Graciously, patiently, and continually invite the simple to learn and experience.

“Whoever is inexperienced, enter here!” To the one who lacks sense, she says, “Come, eat my bread, and drink the wine I have mixed.  Leave inexperience behind, and you will live; pursue the way of understanding. (Proverbs 9:4-6) 

Imitate and instruct the wise.

The wise fear the Lord, as fearing the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. They walk with Him, display fruit of wisdom in their lives, and hunger to grow even more. Imitate their wisdom as those who walk with the wise grow wise (Proverbs 13:20). And instruct them. As a leader you have likely had this experience: the wisest people you lead are also the hungriest to learn and grow. The wisdom writer observed this reality too.

Instruct the wise, and he will be wiser still; teach the righteous, and he will learn more. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Proverbs 9:9-10) 

Ignore the fool and the mocker.

The fool actively resists and despises wisdom and the mocker attacks the wise. While you will be tempted to insult the fool or the mocker, Wisdom encourages you to simply ignore. “Don’t speak to a fool, for he will despise the insight of your words” (Proverbs 23:9). A high school coach who says, “Don’t worry when I am correcting you. Worry when I stop correcting you because that would mean I have given up on you,” is echoing this sentiment. Simpleton leaders waste time reasoning with fools; wise leaders ignore and invest their energy in inviting the simple and instructing the wise.

The one who corrects a mocker will bring abuse on himself; the one who rebukes the wicked will get hurt. Don’t rebuke a mocker, or he will hate you; rebuke the wise, and he will love you. (Proverbs 9:7-8)