Courageous Leadership

I still remember the first time I slipped out of my chair and stood at the head of a boardroom table. The women before me were leaders, mentors, and trailblazers in my profession. "They don't teach you how to do this in seminary," I thought to myself. I swallowed hard, hobbled through our hour-long agenda, and concluded the meeting.

Since that day, I've experienced the same what-am-I-doing-here feeling a hundred times. You too? 

As leaders we seldom feel adequate—let alone courageous—as we survey our task. So how do we practice courageous leadership when we feel anything but courageous? 

Some of our best instruction can be found in the book of Joshua. He spent the first forty-plus years of his career shadowing of one of Israel's most famous leaders. As a seasoned warrior, he learned leadership on the battlefield. Yet nothing could fully prepare him to lead a nation.  

Amidst his uncertainty and unknowns, God showed up and gave him some simple—yet profound—instruction that still speaks to us as leaders today.

Purpose – God reminded Joshua of his calling—namely to lead Israel into the land He had sworn to their forefathers (Joshua 1:6). Forty years earlier God had made this promise to the generation leaving Egypt. And four hundred years before that, He made a covenant with Abraham to give him and his descendants the land of Canaan (Genesis 18).

God hadn’t forgotten His promise. He wasn’t slow to fulfill His word. Instead, at the right time and with the right generation, God was making good on all that He had said.

Do you sense God’s purpose for this season of your life? Do you see something that He may want to do through you for this generation? Stand on it—certain that He will fulfill His purpose as you walk in obedience to Him.

Pattern – All great leaders follow a plan. Study the greats throughout history, and you’ll often find a systematic ritual to their lives. They intentionally did—or avoided—certain things in order to maximize their potential.

God gave Joshua a simple pattern for success: obey. Joshua was to know and follow the Law of Moses—no variations or deviations allowed (Joshua 1:7–8). By becoming a careful student, he would be ready when the pressures of leadership tested his commitment to God and His Word.

Do you disciple yourself to think and study deeply? Do you consider how God’s principles impact all the little choices and tests that litter our days?

Whether we lead in the marketplace, church, community or home, we desperately need the wisdom of God’s Word. While it may not make leadership easier, it will clarify our vision—giving us greater conviction and direction as we navigate difficult decisions and tasks.

Promise – Three times in four verses God commanded Joshua to “be strong and courageous” (Joshua 1:6–9). Was this meant to act as a mirror for Joshua’s insecurities? Maybe. Or perhaps it was meant to act as more of a magnifying lens.

Joshua knew he couldn’t fulfill the task before him alone. So by reiterating the call to be strong and courageous, God was pushing him to look beyond himself. The strength and courage Joshua needed couldn’t be found within. Instead it must be rooted in the promises of God.

God began and ended His instruction to Joshua by promising His presence (Joshua 1:1–5, 9). It was the greatest gift He could give—the personal presence of God would enable Joshua to lead over two million people into the promise land.

Have you too sensed God’s presence as you stood weak-kneed before your task? Have you seen Him fulfill His promises, even when they seemed impossible at best?

Then be strong and courageous—not because you’re educated, intelligent, or savvy. But be bold because God has called you to the task, given you wisdom to carry it out, and ultimately offers you His very presence as He fulfills what He said he would do.

Today let’s not look in the mirror, trying to summon up our courage. Instead let’s start looking at the One who calls and comes alongside the wobbly and weak-kneed. Will you join me? 

Amanda DeWitt is a freelance writer, coach's wife, and mom. She completed her bachelor’s at Dallas Baptist University and holds a M.A. in media and communication from Dallas Theological Seminary. When she's not typing away at her computer, she's chasing her two little boys or watching her husband coach high school football.