Having the Character to Understand ...

A couple of weeks ago we talked about how St. Francis College Prep teaches its students that true leaders listen to understand before they speak.

We ended that discussion with a verse summarizing this fact: “A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion.” Prov. 18:2

In short, true “listening” means that we seek to understand, not wait to speak. This means that we value others enough to set aside our own time, thoughts, beliefs and motives.

But, this is harder than it seems. Why? Because, to truly “listen” we must be “others-centered.” Unfortunately, by nature, we are “self-centered.”

How often do we have the answer ready before the other person has even finished their thoughts? How many times are we completely ignoring their words and waiting for the pause that signals the “green light” for us to release our own?

At St. Francis we teach our students to recognize this natural tendency towards “self.” We also teach them how to overcome this tendency so that they can be effective leaders.

It starts with teaching them what it takes to be understanding of others: “Any fool can criticize, condemn, and complain but it takes character . . . to be understanding . . .” Dale Carnegie

In other words, it takes character or virtue — patience, self-control, wisdom, objectivity — to be understanding of others.

Next, we teach them how virtue is achieved: “We do not act rightly because we have virtue or excellence, but we rather have those because we have acted rightly. We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act but a habit.” Aristotle

Simply put, since virtue does not come naturally, it takes practice, lots and lots of practice.

Finally, we teach them that for their practice to take effect, it must begin with their faith: “… make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue . . .” 2 Peter 1:5

It is through the practice of virtue founded in their faith that our students will learn to have the character necessary to be understanding of others which is essential to good leadership.