I read Exodus 18 and 19 in my devotions this morning and I found some great leadership lessons.
Let me start with the 4 lessons I learned in Exodus 18.
Brief background–Jethro comes to visit Moses at his camp at the base of Mt. Sinai and while there witnesses the method that Moses is using to govern the affairs of the people. Jethro sees the people standing “around him from morning till evening” (18:13) and offers Moses some leadership “advice” (18:19).
Leadership Lesson #1–Delegate (Exodus 18:14,18,21-25)
Moses is trying to do God’s work all by himself and–as Jethro so clearly puts it–that approach to ministry is “not good” (18:17) because Moses “cannot handle it alone” (18:18). I know too many people in ministry who could use a “Jethro” to remind them that trying to do the work of the church alone is a huge mistake.
Leadership Lesson #2–Take Criticism Well (Exodus 18:17)
I really struggle with this one . . . but I’m working on it. Jethro doesn’t mince words telling Moses that his solution to the problem (helping the people to discern God’s will) is problematic. “What you are doing is not good” (18:17). Moses didn’t get his feelings hurt, try to make excuses, or get defensive. He simply listened and made the appropriate changes to his management strategy.
Leadership Lesson #3–Trust Your Team (Exodus 18:22)
I’ve always built a team of people I trust, not people I hope to trust. I don’t expect my team to earn my trust; I expect them to keep it. There’s a big difference between these approaches. Jethro encourages Moses to appoint judges to help him and entrust them with the responsibility of discerning which cases are “simple” and which are “difficult.” Jethro advises Moses to let them handle the “simple” cases and only bring the cases that they deem too “difficult” to him. And that’s exactly what Moses does (18:26). He chooses “capable men” (18:24), makes them leaders, and then he trusts them to do their jobs.
Leadership Lesson #4–Be Teachable (Exodus 18:24)
We learn that Moses “listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (18:24). No matter who we are (or think we are :)) or what we’ve accomplished none of us are beyond being able to benefit from wise counsel.