Thoughts on Leadership, Part 2 by Larry W Peebles May 5, 2017 17.16
I often found myself in a leadership position in my business career that spanned 35 years. I led small groups of 3-5 members at times, and large divisions of big companies with hundreds of people at other times. I do not remember being specifically taught to rely upon the work of those under my charge, but I do remember having that philosophy early on. Perhaps it was something I learned while working for my father and watching him supervise the efforts of others. He managed a small but hard-working crew in a magazine shipment business. He had other duties such as receiving magazine deliveries in bulk, payroll, and organizing the day’s activities. When his work was done, he would jump in beside the workers in the crew and help them finish off the manual tasks involved with filling the daily magazine orders and getting them shipped out to retailers.
He not only led by example, he also relied upon the work of the crew members. He led from the front, as opposed to barking orders and retiring to a desk somewhere. If someone on the team was not carrying their load, they received special private coaching, which never took place in front of others. He depended upon the crew to carry the load while he took care of his other management duties, but was not afraid to get his hands dirty and work hard to assist the crew to complete the day’s shipment goal. He never took the credit, but his helping hand near the end of the day got the entire team over the finish line when it did not look like we would make the shipping quota.
He demonstrated the value of challenging a group with a quota to meet, complimenting and encouraging as their work progressed, and then stepping in as needed to ensure the success. As I worked for my Dad, I remember feeling exhausted by the end of the day, but so fulfilled for having met the quota—something we did a high percentage of the time.
Let those in your charge do their work. Let them know how much their efforts count, and are appreciated. Let them run with their own ideas on ways to be more efficient and productive. Rather than dictate how something should be done, I often found that it was better to ask the workers their ideas on the best way to do something or accomplish a goal. Their idea might not be the way I would suggest. I might provide some advice or refinement, but I essentially let them try their idea. Often they would make their idea work just because it was their idea.
I learned that leadership is not about the leader. The leader’s job is to make it all about the members of the team being led. Give them a chance to do their job. Help out those who may be struggling, and be sure the team secures the victory. But above all, stay in the background. Remain humble, and consistently let the others take the credit.
My leadership tips may seem foreign, but consider these two Biblical examples of leaders chosen not by their resume of accomplishments, or assertive personality, but by God:
- Moses (Genesis Chapters 2, 4)- Moses was raised and educated in Pharaoh’s house; however, he did not receive his call to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt until he had completed years of tending his father-in-law’s sheep in the wilderness. When God spoke to Moses out of the burning bush, He told him He would send him to Pharaoh and that he was to bring the Israelites out of Egypt. “But Moses said to God, ‘Who am I, that I should go to Pharaoh and bring the Israelites out of Egypt?’” This reluctance was followed with a question regarding what he should tell the people if they asked who sent him (or what authority had been given him?). Moses tried to dodge the role of leader when he asked God “What if they do not believe me” (that I have been sent by God)? He then pointed out to God that he was not qualified by virtue of being “slow of speech and tongue”. Finally, he outright asked God to “send someone else”. All of this would not be the normal progression of an interview for a leadership position.
We know the rest of the story. With God’s help, Moses led an entire nation into freedom from Egypt, the most powerful nation on the earth at that time. The Bible tells us Moses grew so very close to God that they talked as friends, and God Himself buried Moses upon his death. Moses was so greatly regarded by God that he appeared with Jesus at His transfiguration (Matthew 17:3). There is no one better to qualify a person for leadership than God, and no leadership should be undertaken without prayer and submission to the call to God.
- Gideon (Judges Chapters 6, 7) – The Midianites for several years had overpowered the Israelites and destroyed/confiscated their crops. The Israelites had resorted to dwelling in caves to hide themselves. Gideon was threshing wheat in a winepress to keep it from the Midianites when the Lord appeared to him and called him “Mighty Warrior”. He told Gideon to “Go in the strength you have and save Israel. Am I not sending you?” Similar to Moses, Gideon began to pour forth his excuses as to why he could not lead the people against the Midianites. Gideon considered his clan “the weakest in Manasseh, and I am the least of my family.” He did not see in himself the leadership God saw in him. Gideon asked for a sign that it was God asking him to lead. His offering of bread and meat was consumed by fire. He asked for another sign — dew on the wool fleece while the ground was dry. When that was done, he asked for the reverse sign—dew on the ground while the wool fleece was dry. That night God did as Gideon asked.
The Spirit of God then came upon Gideon and he summoned an army from Israel. God thought the initial army of 32,000 was too large. When offered the chance to opt out, 22,000 went home. Then a test of how the remaining men lapped water to drink with their hand while on alert (instead of kneeling and putting their face in the water) reduced the force to 300 men. When God calls one into leadership, it is never about the size of the army or the resources. The three hundred were divided into three companies, and Gideon led one of the companies. All three companies followed God’s direction, and the Midianites were routed in the night. Gideon’s army appeared to be mighty and great in number when they blew trumpets and smashed jars to reveal hundreds of lights in the jars. The panicked Midianites turned the sword on each other in the dark and noise and confusion, resulting in their own defeat. If leadership is in touch with God, His strategy will result in victory, with little effort on their part.
Prayer is a key component of leadership. When God qualifies one for leadership, even a reluctant leader, victory is assured. One of the men I respected most as a leader was the late Bishop Kimaro of the Pentecostal Evangelical Fellowship of Africa (PEFA) church. He identified and trained many new pastors. He championed church planting and growth. He never refused help to those in need. He was Bishop over more than 200 churches, yet pastored his own church. He built a complete PEFA training facility for the Mt. Kenya region near his hometown. He was a tireless worker, stretched thin in his responsibilities, but took time to buy food for the street kids. When asked how he was so effective in his leadership, and how he got so much done, he quickly responded that it was so easy—he simply said “It’s the Holy Spirit.” As a last bit of advice on leadership, let’s draw from that example. A leader does not have to have all the credentials and answers. If they are called by God to the role of leadership, they know where to go for resources and help.
WWII Fleet Admiral “Bull” Halsey, who led all the combined forces that held the island of Guadalcanal against Japanese invasion, said “There are no extraordinary men…just extraordinary circumstances that ordinary men are forced to deal with.” With all due respect to the late Admiral and to the Navy, I would modify that to say “God helps ordinary men deal with extraordinary circumstances.” This is the most important key to leadership.