In our quest to become better leaders, we should pay attention to key qualities that great spiritual leaders demonstrate. Recently, I’ve shared how the head of a leader is filled with wisdom and understanding, while the eyes of a leader see the potential for a better future. Today, I’ll share how the ears of a leader know what to listen to and what not to listen to – that’s discretion.
Unfortunately, the ability to exercise proper discretion is a quality that is lacking in our society. It is popular to talk about being open-minded, but Christians should not be open to just anything. We need to be careful what we subject ourselves to and give our attention to. We should be selective concerning who and what we listen to by hearing the truth of God’s word but dismissing lies.
The Bible’s account of Nehemiah provides a wonderful example of a leader with “selective hearing.” First of all, Nehemiah knew what to listen to. The first chapter of Nehemiah tells how a messenger from Jerusalem reported that the Jews were in distress and the wall around the city was broken and demolished. When Nehemiah heard this report, he really “heard” it. He listened to it, considered it, and dwelled on it. As he did, he was moved to do something about the need. So, he traveled to Jerusalem to rebuild the wall. He heard the call of God and listened to it.
However, Nehemiah also knew what not to listen to. Once Nehemiah gathered workers to help him with the rebuilding project, distractors came to disrupt their progress. Officials from some surrounding regions came to ridicule their work. Then, they sent repeated messages to Nehemiah, asking him to meet with them. However, Nehemiah refused. He sent word back to them, saying, “I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease while I leave it and go down to you?” (Nehemiah 6:3).
Nehemiah wasn’t being rude; he was being wise. There are some people you’re better off not meeting with if they’re only out to do you harm. Those are the kind of people you don’t need to listen to.
You see, leaders must understand what to listen to and what not to listen to. Nehemiah chose not to listen to their words of ridicule. Why? He couldn’t afford to. He knew he had a huge task in front of him. He needed to hear words of faith, not words of doubt. He needed to hear encouragement, not discouragement.
When I was hired to become a high school principal, most people around me were supportive. However, there were a couple of people who tried to convince me I was making a big mistake. I remember how I had to intentionally choose not to dwell on the seeds of doubt they tried to plant. I had a big responsibility in front of me; I knew I needed words of encouragement and support, not fear and apprehension.
We can’t always control what words come at us, but we can control what words we receive. We need to receive words of victory that line up with God’s character. But we must also acknowledge that other words will come. There will be words of doubt, fear, and ridicule shouted at us at times. But there is too much at stake for us to receive those words of defeat. We must protect our souls and choose to listen instead to the truth of God’s word.
Leadership Lesson: Good leaders know which messages to tune in and which ones to tune out.