Posted: March 30th, 2022

Leadership and the Wisdom of Proverbs

The book of Proverbs is one of the more unusual books of the Bible, given that rather than storytelling or prophesy, the book consists of a series of homilies or inspirational phrases intended to encourage the reader to honor his or her father and mother and to place wisdom over riches and worldly success. The book as a whole is a reminder to cherish the important, simple lessons of life. The lessons conveyed by the book are both religious and ethical in nature. One idea which comes to mind when reading the book is that rather than talent, sometimes simply the willingness to be kind, to show up on time, and to behave in an estimable manner is more important. From an educator’s perspective, all of the lessons of the book highlight the importance of creating a moral environment in the classroom that inspires others to treat one another well.


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As an educational leader, the book underlines to me the need for educators to constantly assess and reassess why and what we are doing. Although the content of education is important, so are the moral lessons we are instilling in young people. A few of the quotes could be posted verbatim in any classroom, such as: “A gossip goes around telling secrets, / so don’t hang around with chatterers” (Proverbs 20:19). This seems very relevant, given the commonness of Internet bullying today. Although basic skills are certainly important, to create a school community in which students can work and learn from one another, certain standards of civility are necessary. This is one of the reasons that Proverbs does not make reference to specific events or people very much. Its lessons are meant to be timeless, just like the lessons we as leaders should strive to convey to students today.




Response 1: Proverbs 20–31


“An inheritance obtained too early in life/ is not a blessing in the end” (Proverbs 20:21). Proverbs celebrates the value of hard work and dedication. When things come too easily, students do not appreciate them. As you note, too much of a focus on technical aspects of education, such as teaching students specific computer skills or excelling on standardized tests, is not always a useful inheritance because these skills quickly become dated. Instead, we should look to give our students a longer lasting inheritance, which means teaching them to learn how to learn and how to think for themselves. There is too much of a focus on marketable skills and less upon the character and values that will last students a lifetime.


It is also important to remember that living a good life is important, not simply to get ahead financially and gain worldly esteem. “Wise words are more valuable/ than much gold and many rubies” (Proverbs 20: 15). Proverbs also stresses the fact that while it is important to listen to one’s elders, it is equally important to always be learning. As a teacher, engaging in professional development is important so we can teach timeless lessons to our students.




Response 2: Proverbs 20–31


I agree with you that leadership education is very important. I also think that truly effective leadership education does keep the leader in touch with his or her core values. A transformational leadership approach means connecting leadership decisions to higher organizational values to motivate others. One of the most striking aspects of Proverbs is its affirmation of timeless values that are just as relevant today as when they were first written. I also agree with you that one of the characteristics of transformational leadership is the ability of the leader to lead by example. Transformational leaders do not simply urge followers to become more complete, higher visions of themselves but are also engaged on a personal mission of self-discovery. Being a teacher requires a great deal of self-awareness and self-knowledge which is embodied in the book of Proverbs.









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