The Bible has been read by Christians for thousands of years. It has historically been both the source of much good and the scapegoat for much discord. Some people adored the book, while others despised it. When seen outside of its theological and historical contexts and simply as a work of literature, few would argue that it is anything less than a masterpiece.
The depth of character in the biblical characters is astonishing. They confronted enormous hurdles and triumphed through faith and persistence. There is much to learn from these ordinary people who took decisions that turned them into amazing legends for today's business executives. That degree of commitment and determination is desperately needed in organizational leadership. The Bible's characters have a lot to teach us.
In Genesis 6, God laments the depravity that has engulfed humanity. He reluctantly resolves to wipe out the human species and start over. Noah, on the other hand, is the only one who has not been corrupted. You've heard the story. God instructs him to construct an ark that will save him, his family, and a plethora of animal life. God speaks to him as he boards the ark: "Because you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me at this time." The entire globe was doing what was wrong. But did that stop Noah from doing the right thing? There is no way!
In Genesis 12, God appears to Abraham and urges him to "go forth from your nation, and from your relatives, and from your father's home, to the place which I will show you." In other words, Abraham is told to leave his comfort zone and venture into the unknown. Managing risk and uncertainty is a popular issue for business leaders. Great leaders accept uncertainty because they know the truth: the promised land is just around the corner.
The narrative of Joseph, which begins in Genesis 37, is quite dramatic. He'd had a difficult existence. His envious brothers sold him into slavery. He was murdered by a wild animal, according to his father. He was imprisoned after being falsely accused by his boss's wife of sleeping with her. He analyzed the dream of a prisoner who was released and reinstated, but the person had forgotten about him.
Yet, in the end, Joseph became the head of all of Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh. He is able to keep his family from starving during a famine. As he encounters his brothers again, he informs them that even though they intended to harm him, God structured events to place Joseph in a position to save them. Leaders have a vision that keeps them going in tough times.
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That is correct. In Exodus 3, God must be extremely persuasive in order to persuade Moses to act. He first makes excuse after excuse for why he isn't the proper man for the position. As he finally answers his calling, Charlton Heston—er, Moses—approaches Pharaoh and bravely delivers the legendary message, "Let my people go." Moses' own people, the Hebrews, had been enslaved by Egypt, and Moses was chosen to lead them to liberation. When the moment came, Moses was ready to take the reins and lead.
In Joshua 24, after taking his people into new territory, Joshua gives them the choice of serving the God they had always worshipped—the one who had led them into the land—or serving the gods of the surrounding lands. "But as for me and my household," he declares, "we shall serve the Lord." The people respond in unison that they will swear loyalty to God. They follow Joshua's example because they believe in his leadership. He doesn't have to frighten them; he just leads by example.
This is a well-known story. The Jews are beaten by the Philistines and their 9-foot-tall giant, Goliath, in 1 Samuel 17. Goliath mocks the Israelis and challenges them to send him one man who, if defeated, will make the Philistines his servants. There is David, a little shepherd lad who will not even fit inside the armor offered. As Goliath makes fun of him, David responds, "You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, whom you have mocked." He then takes a stone, hurls it at Goliath's head, and knocks the giant to the ground, dead.
In Isaiah 6, God asks Isaiah who he should send as a prophet to His people. "Here I am," Isaiah says. "Please send me!" Leaders do not wait to see if anyone else will step up when something has to be done. They take charge. They will be the first to raise their hands. First to rise. I'll be the first to speak up. First, make a decision. Leaders avoid idleness and are constantly ready to act at a moment's notice.
In John 13, one of the most dramatic pictures in Jesus' life is when he washes his disciples' feet. After he is finished, he tells them, "You call me teacher and Lord, and you are correct; I am both. Since I, the Lord and Teacher, bathed your feet, you should likewise wash each other's feet." Of course, Jesus isn't talking about feet. He's referring to servant leadership. Excellent leaders are concerned with helping the people who follow them. Excellent leaders wash the feet of their followers.