Thursday, August 13, 2009

Leadership Principles from King David

I saw a quote today that was attributed to Peter Drucker... "Managers do things right. Leaders do the right things."

The distinctive nature of leadership has grown more noticeable to me these days - by it's absence.

I am reading I Samuel and for some time now I have been enjoying picking apart the narrative of King David's life. We can learn a lot about leadership -not from any maxims that he embraced but simply from the examples he lived out in his stories.

Here are some I have noticed:

A leader is undeterred by -and is not defensive when facing - criticism.

David, still in his youth, was deliberately stepping onto the scene of his own destiny when he took on Goliath. His older brothers criticized him.

As David asked serious questions about Goliath and probed into the reasoning behind a lack of response from Israel, his older brothers said something that I think would have sounded like this today:

"Listen you snot-nosed punk! You're always meddling! Who's feeding the dog while you're sticking your nose where you got no business!"

Being the "baby" of my family, I understand how that there is some natural animosity between the eldest child and the youngest. So maybe I can cut his brothers some slack. But I think they almost had to have known that the old prophet, Samuel had visited their home for the expressed purpose of anointing David as the next King of Israel. They should have known he would soon embody his destiny.

David did not respond in kind. A true leader recognizes that he will be misunderstood. Instead he just responded with the simple truth - "Is there not a cause?"

David might have reacted to his brother's scolding by pointing out that he was failing to see the big picture; but he remained humble - not defending himself - and remained steadfast at the task.

A leader understands the common man.

There has been a trend that I have spotted this time around with reading I Samuel, it has to do with the relationship between David and King Saul's servants. I believe there is some significance to the fact that this mutual affection keeps popping up. But it remains a mystery to me.

As discussed in an earlier post, it was Saul's servants that first recommended David for the job of Music Therapy. This apparently occurred before David's encounter with Goliath.

In I Samuel 18:5, we learn that David began to find favor and he was "accepted in the sight of all people and in the sight of Saul's servants"

In verse 22 of that same chapter, Saul dispatched his servants to David to coax him into accepting Saul's daughter, Michal, as his wife. When Saul rehearsed what the servants should say, he referenced their love for David.

I think these servants saw David as a man unafraid to get his hands dirty.

Peter Marshall was once the Chaplain of the Senate and was married to Catherine Marshall who wrote Christy. When he first came to America, he had to work. He sullied his hands digging ditches and working with piping. Those experiences of hard work added an element of earthiness to his sermons - he understood people, knew where they were coming from.

Show me a man who has the respect of common working-class stiffs, and I'll show you a man with leadership skills.

A leader takes the "high road"

That's what we call it when someone refuses to respond to vicious attacks in kind.

I cannot point to a single instance in which David treated King Saul with anything but honor and respect.

Saul, on the other hand, went from a deep devotion to this youth that saved Israel with his rustic military prowess - to a deep hatred, only matched in depth by the affection he had felt earlier.

As jealousy was aroused in Saul, he began to "eye" David. About a chapter later, he was commanding the servants of his household (there they are again) to kill David. Demanding in one instance that they go to David's bedroom and bring him back -bed and all - to Saul so that he might personally kill him.

David's attitude toward Saul never changed. And his respect seems to be heartfelt - not just a "Sunday-Put-On".

Leaders have their focus on the objectives before them, they understand that bitterness, hatred, revenge - all of these are empty exercises that only distract one from his God-sent destiny.

True leadership is a burdensome task.

I read the account this morning from I Samuel 21, in which David -escaping from Saul's hot pursuit- had stopped in to see Ahimelech, the priest. The priest had given David and his men some food and the sword of Goliath which he had.

Even though the priest knew nothing of Saul's hatred for David and his desire to kill him; that wicked king lashed out against the priest. He dispatched his men to destroy Ahimelech, and most of his family and most of his city.

Later in chapter 22, one son of that priest escaped and went to David. David said, "I have occasioned the death of all the persons of your father's house".

What a heavy burden he bore.

Leadership is painful - and most suffer in silence.

That burden comes out in Lincoln's "Gettysburg Address". He seemed to have been torn throughout the war, between the necessity to end the war as quickly as possibly with aggressive action; and the compassion he felt for the loss of life the conflict was bringing about on either side.

God's HIStory is replete with examples of God's standards for leadership.

How we need for someone - anyone .... everyone .... to adopt them.

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