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Management Based on Biblical Principles - Five Leadership Lessons from King Saul
What is Your Definition of Leadership?
King Saul - Ancient Israel's First Monarch
King Saul was the first monarch of ancient Israel. Up until Saul was selected to be king, the Israelite people had been ruled by a theocracy with representatives of God (called judges) leading them. The last judge over Israel was the priest Samuel. Samuel was highly respected, but his sons did not follow in his footsteps and the people did not want them to rule over them after Samuel's death. Instead, the people wanted Israel to be like all the other neighboring countries, so they forced Samuel to appoint a king to lead them. God chose Saul, but he did not live up to the task. Mostly, from King Saul's reign, the wise observer will learn from Saul what is not effective leadership.
Effective Leadership is Not Based on Appearance
The first leadership principle gleaned from Saul's reign is that effective leadership is not based on appearance including size and stature. The people of Israel cried out for a king who would be like all other kings who ruled in the neighboring countries. They wanted a big, handsome guy who was a fierce fighter to lead them and protect them from outside harm. God gave them what they wanted. King Saul was said to be heads and shoulders above all the other people in the land. A perfect specimen for a human king; even so, Saul failed miserably as king.
Effective Leadership is Not Based on Good Intentions
The second leadership principle recognized from the reign of King Saul is that effective leadership is not based on good intentions. It has been said that good is the enemy of great. There was a time when Israel's battle forces were assembled to fight against a neighboring tribe. King Saul and his men were supposed to wait for the priest Samuel to arrive to offer the proper sacrifice to God. Samuel seemed delayed and the fighting men became restless. King Saul decided not to wait for Samuel and offered the sacrifice which was not lawful for him to do. While his intentions seemed good at the time, his actions were not appropriate and compromised his leadership.
Effective Leadership is Not Based on Sacrifice Alone
In another instance, God commanded King Saul to wipe out a tribe of people called Amalekites, including all their possessions. The fighting men were not to capture any of the possessions of the Amalekites and add them to their own possessions. King Saul did not obey this order, but captured the opposing king and brought back the livestock. When Samuel questioned him about these things, Saul said he brought them back to offer as a sacrifice to God. Samuel replied, "to obey is better than sacrifice." Effective leadership is not based on sacrifice alone.
Effective Leadership is Not Based on Micro-Managing People
A fourth leadership principle found in King Saul's reign is that effective leadership is not based on micro-managing people or circumstances. During one battle with a neighboring ethnic group, King Saul ordered the people not eat anything until the victory was secured. As the day wore on, the fighting men became weak and unable to sustain the pace. Yet, King Saul continued to insist and pronounced capital punishment for anyone who disobeyed the order. By micro-managing the people and their circumstances, King Saul kept his men from fighting at their best and put them in greater danger.
Effective Leadership is Not Based on Positional Authority
The four principles shared reveal one fifth and overriding leadership principle. Effective leadership is not based on positional authority. Just because Saul was anointed king and held the position of aunthority did not mean that he would be respected as ruler nor have full sway over his people. People endear themselves to a leader who is respectable and trustworthy and cares about the well-being of the people as well as competent for the job.