The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, But fools despise wisdom and instruction.
— Proverbs 1:7 (New King James Version)
It’s funny how things can come together in scripture to teach a valuable lesson. A favorite pastime of many who believe in Christ is to read the book of Proverbs in the Old Testament of the Bible. A large number of the proverbs are written by Israel’s King Solomon after he had asked (and was granted) wisdom from God himself.
It would be natural to assume that King Solomon lived a fine, upstanding life, in fear of the Lord. However, the opposite was true. Solomon had 700 wives who influenced him to worship foreign gods. He was truly a “do as I say, not as I do,” leader — so much so, that God punished him by taking his kingdom from his descendents.
Solomon’s fall from grace is a lesson for all leaders. Much like the suffering bestowed on Solomon’s kingdom, leaders’ failings do not happen in a vacuum. In fact, one could argue the collateral damage caused by a leader’s falls is much worse than any penalty the leader faces himself.
There is no such thig as a “victimless crime” when it comes to leadership. A leader must be far more intentional in his personal life than others. The more followers, the greater the responsibility.
Another scripture that illustrates this in the New Testament.
My brethren, let not many of you become teachers, knowing that we shall receive a stricter judgment.
In full context, this scripture speaks to how what we say often leads to how we act. However, the idea of how a teacher (leader) is judged plays out as true so often in society.
Think about a prominent person who has done something that you would consider underhanded, illegal, or immoral. Now, try to imagine all the good they did prior to that act. It’s hard to think about, isn’t it? The judgment we pass on leaders who make a mistake, or come short of the mark, is must harsher than we attribute to others. We often feel that they “should know better.”
From the leader’s perspective, regaining the trust of followers is at best difficult, and at worst, impossible. So what is a leader to do?
The easy answer is “Be intentional in all things.” However, that is not easy. More on that later.
As imperfect beings, we will mess up. That is a given. Perhaps the infraction is a reaction to a myriad of factors. Perhaps it is simply a lapse in judgment. Regardless of the reason or excuse, the intentional leader must own it. They must own up to their responsibility as quickly as possible, offering apologies and reparations quickly.
The quicker the leader acts on the shortfall, the better the chances for forgiveness, or at the least, understanding. This is far from a perfect plan, but it does work from time to time.
There was one instance where I unintentionally offended someone with their photo in my publication. She was a young lady of color and I had not identified her in the photo I used. In my defense, I didn’t identify any of the photo’s subjects, as they were not provided to me by the person who owned the rights to the photo.
While I didn’t intentionally do anything wrong, I didn’t intentionally do anything right either. After I read, and re-read, her email, I decided to set up a meeting. She agreed.
At the beginning of our meeting, just after we shook hands, I said, “Before we begin, I would like to apologize to you.”
“Yes. I would like to apologize for my actions, or lack thereof, which has caused this offense. While it wasn’t intended, that is exactly what happened, and I am without excuse. Would you please forgive me?”
“I am certainly surprised by your quick and heartfelt apology. I know I may have reacted too harshly, as I am always seen as ‘the girl of color’ in my circles and this just set me off. I am more than happy to forgive you.”
That exchange was the beginning of a dialog and a friendship that continues to this day. I was lucky that the quick apology was received well. I also learned that I needed to be more intentional in everything, including photo captions.
David A. Specht Jr. | President of Specht Newspapers, Inc.