If you were to create the ideal business or professional person, what characteristics or qualities would you want to include? Which of these would be most important – the top priority – from your perspective?
Would this person be someone who accomplishes a lot, a “doer”? What about being an individual with vision, one who can inspire and lead others into the uncertain but compelling future? Would honesty and integrity be among the traits you would emphasize? Where would intelligence, skill, experience, flexibility, intuition, or even common sense fit into your “design” of this ideal person for the business world of the 21st century?
To consider this question, it might be helpful to look at the so-called “Proverbs 31 woman,” as described in the 31st and final chapter of Proverbs, the Bible’s great collection of wisdom. In its context, this passage describes the industrious wife of a civic leader. However, her positive qualities could easily be applied to the business and professional environment – for both men and women. In fact, a person like this could merit strong consideration as a candidate for CEO of a major corporation. Let’s look at some of these characteristics:
Good character and reputation are vital. Being a person of strong moral character not only reflects positively on ourselves; it also reflects on the organizations we represent. “A wife of noble character who can find? She is worth far more than rubies…. Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land…. She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue” (Proverbs 31:10,23,26).
Being trustworthy and dependable enhances others’ confidence in us. If we are reliable and can be counted on in times of need or under pressure, our value to the organization soars. People want assurance that when they ask us to do something, it will be done – and done well. “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life” (Proverbs 31:11,12).
Hard-working, industrious people are corporate assets. In the business world, we encounter many people who do just enough to get by – don’t ask them to do more. A hard worker who pursues excellence is a precious asset for any company. “She…works with eager hands…. She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls…. She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks” (Proverbs 31:13,15,17).
A good leader demonstrates wisdom in the use of resources. Effective business people strive to maximize their company’s essential resources – its people, its capital, and core competencies. They leverage these resources for both present and future productivity. “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard” (Proverbs 31:16).
A focus on the “bottom line” is essential. Any organization, whether for profit or non-profit, must generate sufficient revenue to pay its bills and compensate employees adequately. Lofty goals must be balanced with everyday fiscal realities. “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night…. She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes” (Proverbs 31:18,24).
People receive top priority. Strong leaders regularly acknowledge the valued contributions of people in their organization. Rather than seeing people as a means to an end, they treat people with respect, fairness and understanding, being sensitive and responsive to their individual needs. “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy” (Proverbs 31:20).
1. Can you think of someone who, in your mind, even begins to approach your ideal for a business or professional person? If so, what are some of this person’s qualities that you especially admire or value?
2. We have all seen people who succeed and advance in the business world by utilizing less than admirable tactics and behaviour. Why do you think such people are sometimes “rewarded” for being less than virtuous in a professional sense?
3. Which of the traits that describe this “Proverbs 31 woman” seem most important to you? Explain your answer.
4. Do you think there is any point in striving toward becoming an ideal business or professional person? Is it realistic? Why or why not? How would you advise someone desiring to cultivate some of the qualities described in this “Monday Manna”?
NOTE: Take some time to read the remainder of Proverbs 31 and see what other principles you can find that could be applied to today’s workplace.