The Discerning Leader

Some have the gift of being a discerning leader.

The Discerning Leader  a quote by Mel Lawrence, “…leaders with no discernment can do tremendous damage in a short amount of time.”  Others – like me – learned it in the school of hard knocks and many mistakes. And I need more of it. Maybe you do, too.

In his book Spiritual Influence Mel Lawrence writes, “…leaders with no discernment can do tremendous damage in a short amount of time.” I second that emotion!

Mel says that a discerning leader must be capable of guiding people into clearer understandings and levels of reality. He adds, “How much we all need incisive leadership today!…The discerning leader approaches challenges and opportunities with a mental and spiritual scalpel. To be discriminating without being discriminatory. To judge without being judgmental. To separate without severing.” Pg. 119



That really is the beauty of discernment. Without it leaders are rash, harsh and impulsive instead of patient, wise and incisive.

And there is the difference. I see it in others. I see it in me.

I need to practice discernment.

For my own leadership to be sharpened I practice discernment in community. The Quakers understood this, and practiced a kind of team discernment back in our pre-revolutionary war days in the late 1600’s. Soon they would be known for “clearness committees” where a person gathered closed friends as they processed a decision. Participants were allowed to ask questions but give no advice. It forced the would be decision-maker to consider all points of an issue, face hard questions and see what could not be see if making choices all alone.

Some today call such a gathering “a personal board of directors.” For others it is a small group or some mentors. Whatever the form, the process teaches each participant to practice the skill of discernment; to reflect, play out possible outcomes, weigh emotions and consider the relational impact of potential decisions.

So who is on your board or sits in your discernment circle?

Who brings unbridled input, mirrors truth and forces you to look at the less desirable components of potential actions and choices?

Who teaches you to practice discernment so that when you must act alone, you have the insight, wisdom and tools to make wise choices?



We would like to encourage your feedback as it helps us to identify the issues that are important to you. It also helps others who are searching to develop new creative ways of leading. Thank you in advance for your comments.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

2 thoughts on “The Discerning Leader

  1. I love the idea of “incisive leadership”, particularly in an era where we tend to celebrate DEcisive leadership. But as Lawrence might point out, if one is decisive without being incisive it could do more harm than good. Thanks for the timely reminder Bill.