“Commit your work to the Lord, and then your plans will succeed.” Proverbs 16:3
Search for leadership books on Amazon.com and you will find almost 190,000 titles. Which is dwarfed by the number of management books. Just on Amazon.com there are over 1 million titles telling people the best way to manage people, manage themselves, manage things. With twenty years of experience and having read dozens of business books I have yet to come across any book that gives us insight to how God wants us to work and be successful. There are so many different leadership principles, management models and matrixes. Many of them are very good, don’t get me wrong. However, it is man’s attempt to explain what success looks like for the average person.
Isaiah 55:8 God says, “I don’t think the way you think. The way you work isn’t the way I work.” So it would make sense that all of the books on leadership, management and personal growth would leave the reader wanting something more. I have read a number of books where I loved the concept, but there was not enough depth to do something with the idea. Instead of looking at the latest leadership guru, I want to look at leaders in the bible who God said were good.
Looking for the right individuals to study, I made sure to establish one rule to evaluate their characteristics and behaviors. They must have served and individual. While all of them served God, they had a human leader they also served. In a modern context, they were people who had a manager and they were employees. Having the employer-employee relationship, allows us to look for characteristics and behaviors that each person demonstrated. In all cases, they found success in their employment, even when it looked like the odds were against them. The other item I looked at were commonalities between them. While we can look at favor of God and leadership ability as common characteristics, I wanted to look beyond the obvious. How did they handle themselves, what set them apart from others doing the same job? How did they behave that went against the trend and what might still be applicable to us today? The employees and their managers I will be examining over the next few days are:
Joseph Potiphar, Prison Warden, Pharaoh
Daniel 5 kings of Babylon
Esther Hegai, King Xerxes
Nathan King David
Nehemiah King Artaxerxes
Each one of these individuals have interesting stories and they are all vastly different, though on the surface it may appear they are similar. For example, while Joseph and Daniel both served kings, Joseph started out as a slave, the a prisoner before getting to the palace. While Daniel began serving in the king’s palace from the beginning. We can read both stories and on the surface, they both served kings and had God’s favor. What else would you need to know? When we dig a bit more into the specifics of their stories, and the others, we find details that we can learn from.
The first characteristic or behavior that I want to bring forward is a core foundational item. Without it, one may find a level of success but can have a very negative and limiting effect. All five of these individuals had an understanding and respect for the person in authority over them.
I know this a strange place to start. However, based on current events, I actually believe it is more important than ever to begin here. If you don’t respect the person in authority over you then you will never give your all to the job or you will undermine your manager. Either way, the employee is the one that ultimately looses out. If we look at who managed each of these individuals, only King David was a leader we would want to follow. The kings of Babylon or the Pharaohs of Egypt were to be feared and in many cases, hated. They had the power to kill someone at their whim.
Respect is something that is usually earned. Respecting the person in authority over you is about voluntarily subordinating yourself to them. While the five individuals were really in a submission position, they chose to give obedience to the person they were accountable to. Usually, time and relationship allows us to know someone enough to give them respect. Most people come into a job and will respect the authority of their manager out of fear. Their manager is the one who can give them raises or fire them. The five individuals respected their managers because they understood the core principle of authority. We are all under authority of God in heaven, however, while living, we are subject to those in authority over us; having the legal right to order us. It has to do with rank, power, office, position and hierarchy. The five understood this concept and took it to a new level. Let’s look at how each of them addressed their manager.
Nehemiah in Nehemiah 2:3 said to the king, “May the king live forever!
Daniel in Daniel 6:21 said, “May the king live forever!
Esther in Esther 5:3-4 Then the king asked, “What is it, Queen Esther? What is your request? Even up to half the kingdom, it will be given you.”
“If it pleases the king,” replied Esther, “let the king, together with Haman, come today to a banquet I have prepared for him.”
Joseph in Genesis 50:4-5 said to Pharaoh’s court, “If I have found favor in your eyes, speak to Pharaoh for me. Tell him, ‘My father made me swear an oath and said, “I am about to die; bury me in the tomb I dug for myself in the land of Canaan.” Now let me go up and bury my father; then I will return.’”
While all four examples show a deep respect for the authority of their manager, Nehemiah and Daniel went well beyond respect. It was almost to the point where they had true affection for their manager. Daniel says this after he is thrown into the lions den. That is a level of respect for the authority over his life that is not easily found in todays world. It was from this deep level of respect they had for their manager where everything else flowed.
Tomorrow we will look at more characteristics which are common among the five individuals. I would love to hear your thoughts, inputs, questions, so that we can have a better understanding of God’s plan for our success at work.