You’ve heard it said, “Leaders are born, not made.” While a person may possess a certain charisma, extroversion, and tenacity from birth, having these qualities does not pre-qualify him or her as an effective leader. Moses, for example, was a former criminal, fugitive, and poor public speaker (Ex. 2:12, 15; 4:10). Per today’s standards, Moses was unfit for leadership. I doubt we would have trusted him with managing the entire nation of Israel. But God chose Moses regardless.
God had a plan—a plan that required Moses to grow into his leadership responsibilities, learning along the way while relying on the Lord.
Perhaps you can identify with Moses’ predicament. You’re carrying loads of responsibility, feeling unqualified, “in way over your head,” and not sure if you can effectively lead. Perhaps you, like Moses, have also asked God to “please send someone else” to do the job (Ex. 4:13). But God did not excuse Moses, nor has he excused you from your responsibilities. Let’s take a look at a few of Moses’ better leadership moments.
Responds Calmly and Courageously
Pharaoh’s army advances on the Israelites. The Israelites cry out and blame Moses for their plight, “Was it because there were no graves in Egypt that you brought us to the desert to die?” (Ex. 14:11) Moses boldly articulates his trust in the Lord. He tells the Israelites to not be afraid and to stand firm, for the Lord will fight for them (Ex. 14:13–14).
- Principle – Effective leaders calmly and courageously respond during a crisis situation, strengthening their followers to stand firm and rely upon God.
Listens to Sound Advice
Moses has workaholic tendencies and understandably so. He’s in charge of the entire nation of Israel. But he’s wearing himself out by being the sole judge of the people. He’s trying to be everything for everyone. Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, recommends that Moses select capable men to assist him in his responsibilities. Moses listens and acts immediately. (Ex. 18:17–24)
- Principle – An effective leader humbles himself or herself and listens to the objective advice of a mentor, recognizing the area in need of improvement, and then acts accordingly.
Learns to Delegate
Per Jethro’s advice, Moses appoints capable men from all of Israel and makes them leaders and judges over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. “They served as judges for the people at all times. The difficult cases they brought to Moses, but the simple ones they decided themselves.” (Ex. 18:25–26)
- Principle – An effective leader selects other capable men and women and delegates responsibility appropriately.
Takes Responsibility for Failures
Moses has important one-on-one time with the Lord, the Israelites grow impatient, and the “Golden Calf Incident” occurs. You know the story. Aaron makes excuses; Moses takes responsibility. On behalf of the Israelites, Moses asks for the Lord’s forgiveness for their sins. Moses requests that his name be blotted out of the book of life if the Lord does not forgive the people (Ex. 32:31–32).
- Principle – An effective leader takes responsibility for the people he or she is leading, even if it means taking responsibility for their failures. This is sacrificial leadership.
If Moses can stand firm in front of the Red Sea with Pharaoh’s army approaching fast furiously, if he can learn to delegate important responsibility while leading a nation in the desert, and if he can shoulder the weight of the Israelites’ violation of the First Commandment while his other leader makes excuses, we can bear our current leadership situations, too. The same God who helped Moses in the desert is helping you and me. Let’s change our response from “please send someone else” to “Lord help me lead like Moses.”
Question: Which of the above areas are particularly challenging for you?
In the coming months we’ll take a look at more of Moses’ better leadership moments, as well as some of his moments of failure.
Forthcoming: The Managerial Style of Moses: Part II.
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