Friday, May 07, 2010

Prudence, the Forgotten Leadership Trait

John Ortberg reminds us that prudence is a leadership virtue. I encourage all of us to think about developing and exercising prudence in our lives, and helping our children do the same.

"Prudence is not the same thing as avoiding mistakes. Churches are full of leaders who are afraid to make mistakes, and thereby insure that their churches will never move forward, and that their own souls will shrivel and grow cold from fear and avoidance. But that's not prudence.

Prudence is not hesitation, procrastination, or moderation. It is not driving in the middle of the road. It is not the way of ambivalence, indecision, or safety.

Prudence, says Guelzo, was prized by the ancients because it was linked to shrewdness, to excellence in judgment, to the capacity to discern, to the ability to take in a situation and see it in its wholeness. Prudence is foresight and far-sightedness. It's the ability to make immediate decisions on the basis of their longer-range effects.

Prudence is what makes someone a great commodities trader—the capacity to face reality squarely in the eye without allowing emotion or ego to get in the way. It's what is needed by every quarterback or battlefield general. Thomas Aquinas said it was intelligence about "things to be done."

Prudence comes very close to describing what Paul prays for the church at Philippi—"that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best …"

It is not hard to discern good from bad. But to discern the good from the best …

To recognize from a number of positive options what could lead to the most outstanding outcome

This is prudence."

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