Saul–The Lord’s anointed king…

The book of 1 Samuel provides a relevant chronicle of Saul’s rise to kingship and the resolution of that kingship. God chose Saul to lead the people of Israel (1 Sam 9:17). Saul initially thought this was a mistaken, describing himself as being from the least of Israel’s tribes, the tribe of Benjamin (1 Sam 9:21). Saul didn’t begin his rise to power thinking he would ever be in that position. He had no dreams of kingship, nor thoughts of taking over the highest leadership position of the people. Saul’s response to Samuel telling him of what God had planned for Saul’s future stunned Saul. And in the years that come, Saul’s humble approach to leadership seem to indicate that his stunned reaction was genuine. Saul was anointed by Samuel to

“be prince over (God’s) people Israel. And you shall reign over the people of the Lord and you will save them from the hand of their surrounding enemies…” (1 Samuel 10:1, ESV).

Saul, a man humbled at being called, had quite the calling to fulfill. The subsequent chapters in 1 Samuel show Saul’s love for the commands of God and his continually fighting for the people of God by God’s sovereign hand.

But chapter 13 shows us a bit of insight into Saul’s kingship. Israel became surrounded by the Philistine army, and the Philistine intent was clear: they were there to take out Israel. Saul wanted to seek the Lord’s favor and grew impatient waiting for Samuel to come offer a sacrifice to the Lord. When Samuel arrived, Samuel’s first words to Saul are telling: “What have you done?” (1 Samuel 10:11, ESV). Saul offered all the justification he had, which boiled down to Samuel wasn’t there and Saul needed to seek the Lord’s favor for the battle to come. Saul moved ahead of God’s anointed prophet. Saul wanted the Lord’s favor, but he moved to gain it ahead of the Lord’s timing. Samuel was the Lord’s prophet, the one to seek the Lord’s favor on behalf of Saul and the people. This was not Saul’s role. In that moment of time, when Saul was deciding whether to move ahead with Samuel or not, he chose to take another’s anointing. Even if just for a small bit, Saul overlooked his own calling for a moment and presumed to take the responsibilities of another.

It might have been a one-time deal. We all make mistakes. We each, as leaders, have stepped in some unpleasant things when we have stepped outside our role or moved ahead before the right time. We cannot get a full picture of a leader based on one snapshot. We can, however, see where a potential weakness might be. And Saul’s potential weakness emerging from this situation was acting to get the benefits God offers without following the process God requires. Haven’t we all wanted that at some point or another? The key is this: Saul let his want move to action in his own time rather than in God’s.

At what points in your leadership have you suffered from the same weakness?

Motivation in action…

In leadership, motivation is king. The drive to lead, the reason behind your desire to be here will seep into every aspect of your leadership experience. If you seek power, then you must be careful how you wield it. Seeking power through following the rules, creating a positive environment, and moving the organization forward provides opportunity for good to come from that power. Seeking power by undermining your supervisor, exerting inappropriate influence on others, and demanding that others come to your terms is not good.

Understanding our own motivation sometimes takes analyzing others’. Let’s take two biblical men and see how their leadership journeys played out. Saul and Peter both became mighty men in their respective societies. Saul was anointed king and Peter led the development of the post-resurrection church. Both began their individual journey seeking God’s best. But both journeys did not end the same way. In the next weeks we’ll take a closer look at what went right and what went sideways for them, helping us identify those same markers in our own leadership. In the meantime, consider what you would desire your leadership end to be. Having the end in mind helps in making decisions in the here and now.

 

Your choice in the leadership matter…

Why are you here?

At a certain point, you made a choice. You made a choice to go into the workplace. You made a choice to step up and volunteer in a group. You made a choice to accept the promotion. You may have made other choices. The choice to do your work excellently may have drawn the attention of a supervisor. Your choice to engage your co-workers or fellow group members may have caught the eye of one seeking out a leader. Your choice to continue developing as a person may have led to others trusting you, believing in your ability, and seeking to follow wherever you might lead.

Regardless of how you got here, you had a choice. A series of choices really, made available because of what you were doing where you were when a leader was needed. You had a choice.

In seeking to understand leadership, we must give up the notion that we were forced into it. The situation may have unfolded in a way different than you anticipated, but at some point you made a choice.

I made a choice. I decided to do what made sense to me while working in a position that was newly created. Questioning eyes were focused on me as I was the first significant hire my boss, who was also new to the organization, made in his tenure. His ideas and mine were aligned, yet we were two in an organization not used to what we brought to the table. Skepticism abounded. Yet he and I moved forward. After 6 months, the first results were in. The skepticism died down a bit, but they wondered whether these positive results would last. In my time there, we transformed the culture in a culture that didn’t believe transformation could happen. We made a choice to do the unpopular thing.

The disciples had a choice too. They watched Jesus be crucified, a situation they would not have chosen or even saw coming. And they chose to come together. They feared the authorities, they didn’t know what was coming, but they chose to stay together. And when Jesus rose, they chose to continue following Him. In Acts, as Jesus spoke with His disciples, they asked the question burning in their hearts:

Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” –Acts 1:6, ESV

The burning question: are we there yet? So much transpired, so many unimaginable events had taken place, and the disciples asked the question we all ask. Are we there yet? Jesus’ response brought what Jesus’ responses often bring, both comfort and anticipation.

“It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by His own authority. But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” –Acts 1: 7-8, ESV

Comfort that the Spirit would come. Anticipation that more was to come that they would not understand. They would be witnesses outside of their current zone of operation. They couldn’t have known exactly what that meant. And in ways, they were called to something for which they did not initially volunteer. That is exactly life. We can choose to follow or not. And when we choose to follow, it may mean paths we didn’t know we would encounter, or situations we would never have chosen individually.

Regardless of your circumstances, you have a choice. It is critical that you embrace that your choices brought you here, and your choices will determine how you exist and behave. You have power in the situation. And you will battle fear. You will battle uncertainty. And, let’s face it, as women, we are more likely to battle discrimination based on our gender alone. And yet, in each situation, we have a choice.

Remove the notion from your thinking that you are stuck. Tremendous power lies in the understanding that you have personal power and control in a situation. Ask any parent of a finicky-eating toddler if there is power in making a choice. Many a household experiences the tantrums of the small one unwilling to eat what is set before them. There is power in choice. Realize that you have power. Whatever the situation, you have power.

In making the choice to follow, the disciples individually chose to receive power. The power they received came in the form of the Holy Spirit. But do not confuse power with complete control. For the sake of becoming better leaders, we must remove the notion that we are powerless, that we have no choice. You have a choice. Will you lead?

POINT OF REFLECTION: Is there a leadership situation where you feel like you have no choice? Do you feel cornered? Take a step back and think of what choices you do have. Step away from the issue where you feel like you have no choice: what other choices are there?

There is always a choice. It may be that you need the job. You can’t afford to move or change jobs. Or maybe the industry you’re in is so small that leaving now would be detrimental long-term. There are many areas over which you have no choice. But there are choices to make.

That need for a salary and medical benefits is real—so is the reality that you can change your attitude. You can find something you enjoy about the situation and focus on that. Or you can choose to take those legally-recommended break periods. Let’s face it, at a particular point in your career, legally-mandated breaks are a thing of the past. You work until the work is done. I’ve fallen into the trap that if I don’t take that 30 minute meal break, I can stop working 30 minutes earlier. And that logic works, but it doesn’t wash when you’ve wrung yourself completely out. Taking that meal break may extend the work day, but at the end of the day, I have energy remaining for all the other things I do in life.

 

Leadership motivation–exercising the core…

Leadership will always start with the individual leading. You bring everything you are to your leading. Just like the core of the physical body provides strength and stability to physical movements, understanding your motivations in leadership can provide strength and stability to your leadership actions. Motivation infuses itself throughout your leading actions. When the physical core gets weak, the body experiences pain, cramping, and altered movement. When your motivation waivers, when you aren’t sure why you are doing this, your leadership experiences pain and altered actions as well. What is your motivation? Why are you leading?

What it means to be a leader…

Leadership is more than standing in front of a room and declaring something. You’re reading this post. You’re looking to increase your skill, get some direction, or you’ve found yourself in a position of leadership and a bit overwhelmed. Whatever the reason, you’re here. Using the book of Acts to break down the elements of leadership provides us an example of an organization built from the ground up.

As a woman in leadership, you face even greater obstacles. There aren’t many women with successful, long-term careers who are sharing the information. The challenges can be great, so we each keep our head down, our eyes open, and are just trying to get through. Add being a Christian in a secular leadership position and your support system shrinks even further. Do not be afraid. Acts provides us a small group of men faced with complete unknown circumstances trying to build a high-impact organization. Sound familiar to your situation?

The disciples found themselves seemingly without a leader when Jesus ascended to heaven. They didn’t know what was to come, so they did what they knew: they gathered together in prayer. Tossed here and there as their understanding of Jesus’ purpose and actions went from teacher, to sacrificed, to buried, then resurrected, then ascended, there was no clear map as to what came next. Within a matter of days, the landscape of their faith experienced life-altering experiences. You might find yourself in the same situation. Your boss comes with a broad vision that falls under your purview to make happen. Or the organization goes through a reorganization leaving everyone a bit shaken and wondering what comes next.

Take heart. The Bible gives us more than spiritual guidance. The book of Acts shows the development of the church through the development of its leaders. Take a step back and look at the organization of the people of God. Spanning thousands of years, God had led His people with clear purpose and conviction. Using broken human leaders, He consistently builds His church. Leaders emerge, leaders go by the wayside, and the purpose of the Lord moves forward.

Whether your organization is small and local or globally-impacting, by focusing on the fundamental aspects of leadership, you can better understand your leadership and the path to move your organization forward. In the weeks to come, we’ll unfold the layers of Acts to learn more about the most enduring, long-term organization the world has ever known: the people of God.