The Wise Manager

March 21, 2024

“The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” - Proverbs 1:7


There is an important distinction between wisdom and knowledge. By virtue of your position and your experience, you possess and have access to significant amounts of knowledge: knowledge about your role, knowledge about our institution, and knowledge about how Baylor works. What matters, however, is how this knowledge is used. Will you use it for your own self-aggrandizement or will you use it to lift people up?


This is the distinction: as the proverb says, true knowledge (and wisdom) begins with the fear of the Lord. If we know that all we possess is from God, all that we have can be shared. Perhaps one of our most significant resources is our knowledge. But the goal must be for us not merely to become more knowledgeable. We have to be wise.


This means that our knowledge is always and ever used justly. In the book of Proverbs, foolishness is the opposite of wisdom, where “fool” is not an intellectual insult, but a moral judgment. Foolishness is the risk when managers use their superior knowledge to puff themselves up rather than to lift up those who report to them. Foolishness is the risk when managers hoard knowledge that would best be shared. Foolishness is the risk when managers lead with their egos rather with an eye toward service. Foolishness is precisely when knowledge is used for moral ill. Wisdom is when that knowledge is used for moral good. Christ is our example: all that He knew, He devoted to the healing, salvation and liberation of His people. 


So the questions for you, Baylor manager, are twofold: what do you know and how do you use that knowledge? What do you know about those who report to you? Do you use that knowledge to beat them down or do you intentionally use it to build them up? What do you know about the systems in which you work? Do you use that knowledge to find loopholes or do you use that knowledge to seek to make those systems more just and equitable? These are daily questions to ask in your work: am I mobilizing my knowledge wisely to the glory of God and for the good of my neighbor? Or am I mobilizing my knowledge foolishly to my own glory and exclusively for my own good? 


Sometimes, to manage requires that you know things that you would rather not know. Your responsibility in those instances is to be wise: all that you have and all that you know is to be used for the benefit of your neighbor. If we all operate in this way, we can create a workplace in which employees don’t just survive. They will thrive. 


Sic ‘em, Bears!


Rev. Malcolm B. Foley, PhD

Special Advisor to the President for Equity and Campus Engagement - Baylor University