This post is part of our Sunday Series titled “Articles of Faith.”
We investigate leadership lessons from the Bible.
See the whole series here. Published only on Sundays.
An ongoing misperception in leadership is that a strong leader is an authoritative one. For centuries, it was acceptable that a leader must take control of his team and environment with boldness and a dogged determination to get the job done.
In the generation of our parents and grandparents who grew up at a time in history when more than half the men were veterans, the culture was established that “subordinates” followed a chain of command.
That belief was bred in the generations after, and today we still find leaders who are commanding, controlling, and micromanagers.
Finding a Better Way to Lead
To understand a more effective way to lead, we can find one of the best examples in a warrior leader profiled in the Bible.
Joshua was given authority to succeed Moses as the shepherd who would usher the Israelites into Canaan. What made Joshua a successful leader is that he was able to take the helm without disrupting the original plan. Moses had started the journey and nearly completed it before his death.
But then Joshua was instructed by God to complete the trip. He was told three times by God to “Be strong and courageous” suggesting that his efforts would not be without danger and fear. Sometimes those who are given the opportunity to lead feel that the only way to get through the tough times of a mission is to lead by intimidation, threats, and punishment.
This never works. Those who do find that morale declines as does job performance. Joshua helps us to understand that having authority does not mean being authoritative.
On Real Trust
We find in Joshua 1:10 that he “ordered” the officers of the people to go through the camp and tell them to get ready to cross over the Jordan River and enter into hostile territory. He prepared the men to fight the enemies who would surely come against them as they entered in.
But Joshua reminded the people that he had assurances from God that they would have success. He trusted God. He just needed to get the people to trust him as the leader appointed by God on the heels of a phenomenal Sherpa like Moses. He pulled the teams together and encouraged them to support one another.
Then the most satisfying words that any leader could hear came from the people:
“Whatever you have commanded us we will do, and wherever you send us we will go. Just as we fully obeyed Moses, so we will obey you. Only may the Lord your God be with you as he was with Moses.”
Then just like God they encouraged him to be strong and courageous.
Winning Loyalty and Respect
How did Joshua win the loyalty and respect of this people?
He had three things working in his favor:
- The people knew he had been coached and mentored by an established and wise leader like Moses. He had learned from one greater than he, and he was open to correction and training.
- He exuded confidence but not cockiness. He was humble enough to know he would not be able to take the land on his own. He would need the help of his team.
- He delegated responsibility to the officers and allowed them to go through the camp and give orders to the people in preparation for the big move. He did so without interference. He trusted his people to do what he’d asked them to do, and then he stayed out of their way.
All leaders can learn from Joshua’s confident and inclusive manner of leadership. He was strong but not overbearing, courageous but not arrogant, focused but not inflexible. Inasmuch as he was all these things, he was also wildly successful and prosperous.
Follow his lead.
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Betty Parker is President of Sharper Development Solutions, Inc.
Her daily goal is to turn Managers into Leaders through Training and Coaching.
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