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A few years ago I was honored to receive training in coaching habits by Sam Farina. During one of the sessions, Sam used Exodus 18 as an example of coaching in Scripture. Moses was the person being coached, and his father-in-law, Jethro, was the coach. It was one of those times for me when Scripture seemed more alive than ever before. Not long after that, I spent a few days reading Exodus 18:13-23 over and over again. What I finally walked away with was five habits that a wise leader should live by daily. I owe the genesis of all of this to Sam!

  1. Wise leaders rarely serve alone.

Wise leaders understand that power comes in numbers. The more the merrier is a true axiom. Lone leaders will not only wear themselves out, but their people too (see verses 14 & 18). If more is caught than taught, we need to model serving as a team. This leads us to the second habit.

  1. Wise leaders rarely use “I” and “me” when they talk.

Wise leaders invest in the “Power of We.” One of the reasons I enjoy playing on the Nintendo Wii is that the entire idea of the gaming console is to bring people together. The team receives praise when it is victorious, and the team weathers defeats together. On the other hand, lone leaders are intoxicated by their own press release. Notice how many times Moses uses “I” and “me” in verses 15-16. Dr. Mark Rutland once told me, “David, you are a young man with a bright future. I have met many like you. But most of them failed because they believed their own hype.” Humility is key to be a wise leader.

  1. Wise leaders always take time to identify and equip people to lead alongside them.

Ask anyone who has been in ministerial leadership of any capacity what takes the most time and they will respond, “developing others.” Many tasks in ministerial leadership can be achieved alone. For example, personal spiritual disciplines, prayer, sermon or class room study, etc. It is easy to try and just do it all ourselves, but God calls ministerial leaders to be equippers of the church.

This one is toughest for me because early in my ministry days, I often made the mistake of promoting leaders who were not ready for the task, only to help prove what a great leader I am. Once they fail, I step in and show how strong a leader I am. That is a horrible way to lead. In verse 21, Jethro instructs Moses to find “able” people to lead, and have them lead over sizes that fit their strengths. Lone leaders just do not have eyes to see who is able and who is not because they are blinded by their own inadequacies. Yet, some things simply cannot be delegated, which leads to habit four.

  1. Wise leaders deal mostly with vision issues; tactical and functional issues are delegated to able leaders.

Over a decade of ministry in various-sized churches and doing a bit of coaching over the last three years, I have noticed a trend. Lone leaders find great value in using their efforts for the smaller, day-to-day issues, instead of focusing on long-range vision. Moses was expending a great deal of his time and effort on seeing every person, no matter the size or weight of their need. Jethro instructs him to only take on the major issues and leave all the smaller issues for his able leaders (see verse 22).

Wise leaders know that people need a compelling vision. Once they feel compelled, they will put flesh on the vision. Lone leaders never have time to vision cast when they are knee deep in everything that’s happening around them. Wise leaders find time to dream and have no need to micro-manage because they have chosen and trained able people.

  1. Wise leaders are assured (1) God will direct, (2) they will endure, and (3) they will find peace.

Finally, when team ministry is a core value, God gives assurance of the three things above in verse 23. We are assured that God will give us the right direction. We are assured we will have the strength to endure, to finish the race set before us. FInally, we are assured of peace, because team members work together and look out for one another. I often hear lone leaders explain that they feel lost, tired, and anxious because of the enormous weight they bear alone. How can one find security and peace when everything is riding on his or her shoulders alone?

So the big idea here is start TODAY by admitting that none of us truly function 100% in all five habits. We may be great in two or three of them, but struggle in the others. Confession is good for the soul. You should try it. I have already admitted that habit three is one of the toughest for me. Plus, I know a handful of times that I believed my own hype and that never ended well (but that is for another post).

So to put these five habits into action, you may ask yourself, “What will I begin doing TODAY to become the wiser leader God has destined me to be?” Even if you commit to bettering yourself by 1% a week, you get a 52% increase yearly. I would take that percentage any day!

What are some other areas of wisdom you see between Moses and Jethro here in Exodus 18? Please feel free to share them in the comments below.