Leaders Understand Themselves ...

Leaders Understand Themselves

The famous words, “Know Thyself” were inscribed in the Temple of Apollo at Delphi. According to legend the seven sages of ancient Greece, who laid the foundation for western culture, ordered this.

This ancient proverb became a standard for the western philosophers of old. Most notably is Plato’s regular emphasis that Socrates viewed “Know Thyself” as long-established wisdom.

Good leadership requires embracing this wisdom, and St. Francis College Prep students learn to do so.

Plato explained that, “I must first know myself . . . to be curious about that which is not my concern, while I am still in ignorance of my own self would be ridiculous.”

In other words, it is foolishness to try to learn more about the world around us and the others in it until we have learned who we are; why we think what we think; and why we do what we do.

Why is this important? Because, our proper use of external knowledge about the world and about others is predicated on the internal motives hidden in our heart. Something may look “good” on the outside but be rooted in “bad” motives on the inside, and good leaders know the difference.

But, to understand your own motives is not easy. “One may understand the cosmos, but never the ego; the self is more distant than any star.” GK Chesterton.

So, how do we teach SFCP students to understand themselves? The same way we teach them to understand others. And, as we shared earlier this week, this takes character or virtue.

It takes the same virtue to look inside our own hearts to understand who we really are as it does to understand others. But, it often takes more than that. It takes courage to look inside.

CS Lewis commented that, “Courage is not simply one of the virtues but the form of every virtue at the testing point, which means at the point of highest reality. ”

How true this is. Before we ever practice patience, self-control, wisdom or objectivity in being introspective, we must first have the courage to do so.

In some ways it is like Oscar Wilde’s character Dorian Gray, who lived a life filled with debauchery but towards the end decides to be a pure and moral human being.

However, when Dorian looks into the portrait of his soul he finds that his true ugly motive for moral living was his vain and curious search for new experiences. In short, he was still selfish.

Good leaders have the courage to look themselves in the eye in front of a mirror and contemplate on the true motives of their heart — before they act.

Good leaders understand themselves.