So they all went to Gilgal, and in a solemn ceremony before the Lord they made Saul king. Then they offered peace offerings to the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites were filled with joy. 1 Samuel 11:15 (NLT)
Ever since I was voted Captain of the Woodlawn Elementary School Safety Patrol, I have found myself in various positions of leadership throughout my life journey. Along the way, I have found leadership to be a paradoxical enterprise as I have succeeded and failed as a leader in different arenas.
Leadership is at once simple and infinitely complex. Leaders who seem tailor made for a particular time and place will fail miserably when placed in different circumstances. There is a dynamic of chemistry between a leader and the group he or she leads which is difficult to capture and quantify. I always find it fascinating to watch the merry-go-round of coaches in major league sports. A coach can lead one team to the championship and fail miserably with the next team they lead.
As I read this story of the newly appointed leader of Israel this morning, I paid particular attention to the qualities of his leadership. Saul, the king-elect, is impressing me with his leadership:
- “Saul had been plowing a field with his oxen” We find Saul hard at work in the field, providing for his family. No hint of entitlement here. He’s working hard like everyone else. Just like Jesus taught, if you want to lead you need to be willing to serve – and Saul was hard at it.
- “Then the Spirit of God came powerfully upon Saul” God is at work in Saul’s life. There is a divine connection which has a direct correlation to Saul’s decisions and actions. I have found that leaders who are willing to submit themselves to divine authority, who humbly seek divine guidance, and who will faithfully execute divine direction will avoid many of the snares which lead to failure.
- “He took two oxen and cut them into pieces and sent the messengers to carry them throughout Israel” There was no hesitation. Saul acted decisively. Anyone in leadership has experienced the truth of Solomon’s ecclesiastical wisdom regarding time. There is a time to ponder, and there is a time to act and a good leader has the wisdom to know what time it is.
- “This is what will happen to the oxen of anyone who refuses to follow Saul and Samuel into battle!” Notice that Saul did not take all of the authority for himself, but acknowledges that priestly leadership of Samuel. There is humility in having an honest understanding of your place. Saul is not striving to stand alone as king of the mountain, but is willing to acknowledge that his leadership as king is shared with God’s appointed priest.
- But Saul replied, “No one will be executed today, for today the Lord has rescued Israel!” Once again Saul shows real sensitivity to God’s provision and blessing. Unlike the kings of his day who would solidify their place by having enemies or those who threatened their leadership killed as public spectacle, Saul reserves judgment and honors God by showing mercy and grace.
- Then they offered peace offerings to the Lord, and Saul and all the Israelites were filled with joy. The nation, and Saul as their newly appointed leader, experience success on multiple levels. They have won a victory over enemies who threatened their lives and well-being. They have secured the deliverance of their own people. Saul has shown himself a capable leader spiritually and militarily. Together, everyone experiences the joy of success.
It is not a bad start for Saul. Today, I’m measuring myself against the things that made Saul successful in his early career and trying to humbly make an honest assessment of my own leadership with regard to marriage, family, business, and community. I have come to the believe that truly successful leaders are ever diligent at improving their serve.