Tag Archives: Leader

Facing Opposition

Korah son of Izhar, the son of Kohath, the son of Levi, and certain Reubenites—Dathan and Abiram, sons of Eliab, and On son of Peleth—became insolent and rose up against Moses. With them were 250 Israelite men, well-known community leaders who had been appointed members of the council.
Numbers 16:1-2 (NIV)

Every leader of an organization, whether it be politics, business, community, church, or non-profit, will face opposition. It is, I’m afraid, simply part of the  territory.

In today’s chapter, Moses and his brother Aaron face yet another round of opposition to their leadership. They’ve already faced multiple waves of criticism, experienced sharp drops of popularity, and had to address multiple acts of defiance. Now, a Levite and three men from the tribe of Dan were ring-leaders of a 250 person rebellion. Their beef was that Moses and Aaron sat a lone at the top of the religious system. They wanted a piece of the power. “We’re all holy,” they argued. “Why is it only the two of you alone get to enter the Lord’s presence and speak for the Lord?” 

I’ve found it very common for leaders to face opposition from members of the group who envy all of the benefits of leadership. I also have found that these individuals often ignore the very real responsibilities and burdens that come along with that leadership. I’ve also observed that where there are a few passionate opposition leaders, you will soon find a growing group of supporters that they will have stirred up in order to support their own feelings and desires.

We later find that part of the opposition wasn’t just about power and control, but about material possessions. The Levites weren’t allowed to own property. God intended for them to take care of the temple and to be provided for through the temple and the offerings and sacrifices of the other tribes. Those opposed to Moses and Aaron’s leadership eventually reveal that what they want is the ability to own property like everyone else.

I’ve observed that opposition is often rooted in others’ appetites for power/control, money, or both.

I also observe this morning a couple of important lessons from Moses’ response to this latest round of opposition:

  • Moses didn’t ignore the opposition. Moses acknowledged the opposition and even allowed for a test of their opposition. He confronted Korah the Levite directly. He attempted to speak with the leaders of the opposition from Dan, but they wouldn’t speak to him. Opposition rarely just goes away and it often refuses direct communication. Left unchecked, opposition typically grows to become a larger and larger issue. Good leaders rise to the challenge and find ways to address opposition. There are many and diverse ways of addressing it, but I have learned (in some cases through failure, I confess) that it needs to be addressed.
  • Moses differentiated between opposition and the whole.  Rather than stepping back and accepting God’s anger to burn against the entire assembly, Moses’ pled for the consequences to be confined to those responsible. It’s easy from a position of leadership to perceive that the opposition is greater than it really is. Trying to remain objective and place responsibility and consequences where they are due can be critical to future success.
  • Moses continued to exhibit love and compassion for those under his leadership. At the end of the chapter we find Moses pleading with Aaron to make atonement for the entire assembly before a plague gets too far out of hand. It is easy when frustrated by opposition and the weariness of leadership to stop caring. Moses continued to exhibit deep concern for the people, despite the never-ending headaches they caused him.

This morning I’m thinking about my own experiences and qualities as a leader. I’ve had my share of successes along the way, but I’ve also failed at every one of the three leadership qualities I observed in Moses this morning. Specific situations, individuals, and circumstances come to mind. As I ponder these failures it humbly brings a final thought on leadership to mind: I can’t let failure stop me from trying. Learning from failure is perhaps the most critical lesson any leader can embrace.

As I get ready to start my day, a familiar quote from Teddy Roosevelt comes to mind:

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.”

Life is Messy

Gideon made an ephod of it and put it in his town, in Ophrah; and all Israel prostituted themselves to it there, and it became a snare to Gideon and to his family.
Judges 8:27 (NRSV)

Life is messy. We generally like things to be black and white and believe that things would be so much easier if they were. We like our movies to provide us with simple delineations between the people who wear white hats and those who wear black hats. We like the ending of our movies to wrap up neatly. The bad guy is dead. The good guy rides off into the sunset.

But life is rarely that way. We would like a simple choice for President. We want the person who is fully qualified, looks the part, has no moral flaws, is void of skeletons in the closet, inspires us, communicates clearly, and unites a diverse citizenship. That person, however, does not exist.

Even the great heroes of the faith, whom God raised up as leaders in ancient days, were sons of Adam and daughters of Eve. They were flawed the same as me and you. God raised up Gideon to defeat the Midianites, but in today’s chapter we find that Gideon was far from perfect. He defeated an idolatrous oppressor only to create a golden ephod (generally, a garment woven with gold) that became an idol itself. Gideon, for all of his leadership qualities, had his flaws. With his power and prestige he amassed for himself many wives and concubines. With 70 sons on record, the total number of his children had to be well over a hundred. Talk about messy.

Today, I am reminded that on this life journey East of Eden we rarely get the storylines of our lives to work out how we like them in our movies. Despite our perceptions, people rarely fit into simple black hats or white hats. Most all of us wear shades of gray. We all make mistakes along the way; Some of them tragic. We have messy lives, messy relationships, and mortal flaws. Riding off into the sunset is often just the view we choose to see through our rose colored glasses.

I do not believe, however, that this is cause for pessimism or cynicism. Rather, it is an opportunity for grace, forgiveness, and understanding. Just as Jesus taught, if I can be honest about the log in my own eye, I can learn to have grace for the speck in the eye of my brother, my sister, my friend, and my neighbor.

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featured photo by senorhans via Flickr

Blessing

And of Joseph he said:
Blessed by the Lord be his land,
    with the choice gifts of heaven above,
    and of the deep that lies beneath;
Deuteronomy 33:13 (NRSV)

Along my life journey I have received words of incredible encouragement from family, teachers, and mentors:

You will do well in whatever you do.
Whatever you do, I know you’ll succeed.
You’ll do great. I know you will.

Those words are examples of what the ancients called a blessing. Most commonly given from father to son, king to subject, leader to follower, a blessing is a word of affirmation spoken to bless and encourage. Some blessings can be prophetic nature while others simply to strengthen and comfort the recipient.

In today’s chapter we find Moses approaching then end of the road. He is in the home stretch of his life journey, and the finish line is straight ahead. He gathers his people together and, tribe-by-tribe, he speaks over them a blessing. The blessing for each tribe is unique, and the themes include life, safety, strength, acceptance, abundance, provision, affluence, favor, possession, and etc.

Today, I’m thinking about my children, and others who live within the circles of my influence. I’m thinking about the opportunity I have to speak words of blessing into them. Conversely, I’m thinking about the curse of staying silent and not blessing those who I have the opportunity to encourage. I need not wait until the end of my life journey to speak a blessing over others. In fact, what a shame it would be for me to do so.

Natural Born Leaders

Davids armyDay after day men came to help David, until he had a great army, like the army of God.
1 Chronicles 12:22 (NIV)

Ever since I was elected captain of safety patrol for Woodlawn Elementary School in sixth grade, I have found myself in positions of leadership, of one kind or another, pretty much my entire life. I have experienced being a leader, and I have lived and worked under many different leaders in business, church, organizations, and community. I would rate myself a capable leader, but not a great leader. I am painfully aware of my own human flaws and shortcomings.

There is a certain leadership trait I have seen at work in many individuals which I find hard to quantify. I think it’s what people mean when they call someone a “natural born leader.” It can be applied to good leaders who serve groups, peoples, and nations to the betterment of all. It can also be applied to leaders whom others will follow to evil and destructive ends. Great responsibility is placed on any leader who finds that others will follow him or her.

I believe David was a natural born leader. We see it throughout his story, but especially in today’s chapter as the scribe chronicles the names of the soldiers from every tribe who joined David in his wilderness stronghold. Given a choice between the manic mental issues of King Saul (who had originally been the peoples choice based on the fact that he was tall and looked the part) and the rugged, successful young general (who was God’s choice based on the condition of David’s heart) the soldiers threw their lot in with David. His path to the throne was planned by God, but was clearly paved by his army. David controlled the loyalty and will of the nations warriors, Saul’s family was largely decimated, and there was no one left to contend for the throne.

Today, I’m thinking about leadership. I’m thinking about the things I admire and respect in leaders and reevaluating my own leadership roles in family, business, church, and community. I desire to be responsible and accountable in the leadership roles I have been given – and I have a long way to go.

Leaderless

Français : La Mort de Saül et de Jonathan
The Death of Saul and Jonathon (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

When all the Israelites in the valley saw that the army had fled and that Saul and his sons had died, they abandoned their towns and fled. And the Philistines came and occupied them. 1 Chronicles 10:7 (NIV)

My daughter, Taylor, and I had a Father’s Day date this past Sunday afternoon. We spent an hour and a half talking and catching up over a bite, a beer, and some ice cream. As we stood in line for ice cream we talked about the pain and confusion many people experience on Father’s Day and Mother’s Day. Taylor has been working for a non-profit art program that works with juveniles who are in the court system. She has many kids she works with who have never known a father figure of any kind. Some kids, she shared, have a birth mother, step mother, and foster mother and not one of them wants anything to do with the child. I tried to imagine how confusing it must be for these kids to imagine celebrating a mother or father.

Along my life journey I’ve noticed that there are certain themes which emerge in my thinking and writing during particular seasons and stretches. When I read a chapter each day there are nuggets in the text that resonate with me because of the things on which my brain has been ruminating. So it was this morning when I stumbled upon the verse above. Left without a leader, the entire social system of the Israelites fell apart. Without a leader who could organize and rally them, the army fled and left the people in the villages vulnerable. Without anyone to defend them, the villagers fled their homes and town for fear of being killed by the enemy. The enemy took over the abandoned towns as the villagers scattered across the land seeking safety and shelter. It sounds like chaos.

With that mental picture in mind, I thought of the kids with whom Taylor is working and the parallel between the two systems. The reality is that when a family is left without a strong leader who can organize and rally its members, a family system breaks down into chaos and leave the weakest members vulnerable. The entire system and each individual in it is open to occupation by negative forces and is threatened by isolation, fear, and the primal need for survival.

This morning, in the quiet, my mind continues to contemplate the theme of parents, children, and family systems. Perhaps its the combination of celebrating Mother’s Day and Father’s Day over the past several weeks. Perhaps it’s the transition we’ve made in recent years to having independent, adult children or the experience of entering back into living with and leading a teenager. Whatever the reason, this morning I’m again grateful for the strong leadership of my parents throughout the journey and I’m motivated to be a strong leader for my family system even though that role and its responsibilities change drastically over time.

The Tragedies of Choosing Early Retirement

 

My Grandpa V with my father and daughter, Taylor outside the nursing home where he gave himself the job of welcoming committee.
My Grandpa V with my father and daughter, Taylor, sitting outside the nursing home where he gave himself the job of welcoming committee and tour guide.

In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. They destroyed the Ammonites and besieged Rabbah. But David remained in Jerusalem. 2 Samuel 11:1 (NIV)

My grandfather was a school teacher and administrator for many years. When the school system told him he had to retire from teaching he took over the school lunch and bus program. When they told him he had to retire from the lunch and bus program he got a job as bailiff of the county courthouse. After many years working at the courthouse the judge called him into chambers and said, “Herman, I’m tired of having to wake you up to take the jury out. I think it’s time for you to retire.” In his nineties, my grandfather was no longer able to manage on his own. When he moved into the nursing home, however, he promptly gave himself the job of welcoming new residents and giving them a tour of the facility.

My grandfather was fond of saying that “the day I retire will be the day I die.”

David was a warrior. David was a general. David was a natural born leader. He was still in his prime, and yet now as King he chose to stay in Jerusalem and send the army out to war without him. It would prove to be a tragic choice. Because he was not out with the army doing what he was gifted and called to do, he found himself on the roof of his palace peeping at another man’s wife. Worse yet, it was the wife of one of his own men who was an honorable soldier. David then made the tragic mistake of inviting the woman over for dinner and sleeping with her. She conceived. The led to the tragic mistake of covering up his actions and ultimately conspiring to commit murder. The consequences of this series of tragic and unnecessary mistakes would haunt David, his family, his monarchy, and his kingdom for the rest of his life and beyond.

We are not told why David chose to “retire” from leading the army. A few chapters ago we read that David wanted to build a temple and God clearly responded that building the temples was not what David was called to do. I get the feeling that having finally ascended to the throne, David was feeling a bit of a mid-life crisis that is common to man. He’s tired of what he’s always been gifted at doing. Leading the army is what he’s done his entire life. Yes, he’s good at it, but it’s boring to him. David wants to retire from all that and build temples and do other things.

Perhaps David should have stuck with what he was gifted and called to do. Perhaps he should have taken my grandfather’s attitude and just stuck with the job until “retirement” was forced upon him. Tragic things happen when we choose to prematurely retire from the path to which God has called us and strike out on our own.

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Witness in the Spotlight of Leadership

photo by smjbk via Flickr
photo by smjbk via Flickr

The Lord will vindicate me;
    your love, Lord, endures forever—
    do not abandon the works of your hands.
Psalm 138:8 (NIV)

David was a leader. After his miraculous victory over Goliath in his youth, David had been thrust into the spotlight and he never left the spotlight. David was warrior, field general, outlaw, ancient Robin Hood, spy, ruler of Judah, and King of Israel. He knew that others were constantly observing him.

What I found interesting about David’s lyrics in Psalm 138 is that he is well aware that many eyes are on him:

  • When David bows down to God, he does so in full sight of the pantheon of regional pagan gods and their followers.
  • Other kings are watching, and David knows that he has influence with them as he desires that they all exalt God as he does.
  • His foes are watching and he acknowledges that God’s protection and preservation of him stands as a testimony.

Today, I’m thinking about the role of being a leader and the ways I find myself in positions of influence. Like David, I hope and pray that as others see me in various spotlights of leadership my life, words, actions are a positive witness of God’s love, grace, forgiveness and Life giving power.

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