Practical Principles of Leadership
LEADERSHIP has become a popular topic today, and for good reason. Effectiveness in any endeavor is largely a function of good leadership.
The Bible offers many principles and models to help leaders serve their people more effectively. Of course, Scripture was not written as a management manual, and one has to be careful about misinterpreting and misapplying the biblical text. Nevertheless, a number of passages are directly related to leadership issues. Moses’ conversation with Jethro (Exodus 18:7-24) is one of the most significant. Several principles flow out of this exchange:
- (1) Moses, himself a man of authority, respected the authority of Jethro. It would have been easy and perhaps even natural for Moses to become defensive and protect his own political “turf” when Jethro offered advice. But instead, Moses showed him respect, listened, and responded to the counsel of his father-in-law.
- (2) Authority has a way of becoming intoxicating. Moses apparently knew little about delegation of responsibility. That may explain why he was overburdened. But when Jethro asked Moses why he sat “alone” advising everyone, Moses replied, “The people come to me to inquire of God.” Could it be that the statement reflects the intoxicating allure of being in charge? Fortunately, Moses seemed eager to give up some of his centralized control.
- (3) Authority should be invested in others prudently. Jethro did not suggest that Moses merely fill a handful of leadership positions, the way so many do, with relatives and cronies. Rather, he described job qualifications based on proven character. In doing so, Jethro gave a reminder that delegation is a privilege, not a right. A leader ought to consider the quality and ability of prospective appointees.
- (4) Authority is a resource to be invested in others. By delegating authority to subordinates, Moses would unleash incredible energy that would take the people much further as a community than if he retained centralized control. People often think of authority as a position to be preserved. In fact, authority is a resource to be used up in empowering others to act more effectively.
- (5) Effective leadership increases the health and longevity of an organization and its people. Moses probably prolonged his own life and ensured the progress of the nation by appointing effective judges. No organization can long survive if only a handful of its workers are involved in the task. By giving each member a stake in the outcome, leaders can bring far more eyes, ears, brains, and hands to bear on complex decisions.