Updated: Feb 14, 2019
The greatest leadership lessons I have learned have not come from leaders of today but from leaders in history, most notably leaders from the Bible. Some of the greatest examples of effective leadership can be found within the pages of Scripture. For leaders today, there is much to learn from these ordinary people who made decisions that transformed them into extraordinary leaders. In my last two posts we looked at seven of these great leaders and what we can learn from them. Here are three more Bible leaders we can learn from.
8. Daniel: Leaders maintain their values and principles even when it will cost them.
Many of us are at least familiar with the account of Daniel in the lion’s den. In the sixth chapter of Daniel, Daniel is a highly esteemed government official whose colleagues become jealous. Seeking to get rid of him and knowing that he is a man of faith and prayer, his colleagues convince the king to enact an official decree stating that prayer can be made to no god except to the king himself. When Daniel found out about the law he had to decide whether he would submit to the kings edict or stay true to his convictions. He continues to pray to God as he had always done. When he is caught, the king, albeit reluctantly, is forced to throw Daniel to the lions. The next morning, the king finds Daniel alive and unharmed. Daniel’s faith, values, and principles is what made him a great leader to begin with. And he maintained those values, even when he knew it would cost him. Great leaders have values and principles that enable them to make decisions quickly and confidently, even when those decisions may require a great cost.
9. John the Baptist: Great leaders are great followers.
In Matthew 3 people are coming out in throngs to hear John the Baptist preach. At this point he had already developed a strong following and had a number of disciples. He is baptizing scores of people and preaching about the coming of Jesus the Messiah. John knew that his purpose and role was to point people to and prepare people for the coming Messiah. And when Jesus came John humbly submitted to the Lordship of Jesus. While John was baptizing, Jesus approaches him. John laid his ego aside and publicly said to Jesus, “I need to be baptized by you.” At another time when Jesus’ popularity was growing John’s disciples approached John and pointed it out. John, once again demonstrated humility and respect and said, “He must increase but I must decrease” (Jn 3:30). Great leaders “yield to stronger leaders when they appear because the cause is more important than personal popularity” (John Maxwell).
10. Jesus: Leaders are servants.
The greatest leader in the world proved himself to be the greatest servant in the world. One of the most powerful images in the life of Jesus is when he washed the feet of his disciples in John 13. When he finished, he said to them, “You call me teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Jesus, of course, isn’t talking about feet. He’s talking about servant-leadership. Jesus always focused on the needs of others. Great leaders focus on serving those who follow them. One day when Jesus caught his disciples arguing over who was the greatest among them, he didn’t rebuke them for wanting to be great, he gave them a formula for greatness: “If anyone would be first, he must be last of all and servant of all” (Mark 9:35). Great leaders are servant leaders.