(ThyBlackMan.com) After 400 years of living in slavery, Moses had just begun leading the Israelites out of Egypt. His task was to take the children of God toward Israel, their promised land. As we read in the Book of Exodus Chapter 18, Moses was laboring in the middle of the Sinai desert from dawn to very late into the day and night as he attempted to resolve the countless conflicts that were coming up among the Children of Israel. Effectively, Moses had unintentionally turned into a workaholic.
Jethro, his father-in-law, a Midian priest, saw that the workload Moses was putting upon himself could not be sustained for long and that he was heading for troubled times ahead. Wisely, he pulled Moses aside, and after commending him for his efforts at doing God’s bidding (Exodus 18:9–12), gave him a couple of priceless lessons and counsel regarding the benefits of delegation.
In today’s business terminology, Jethro articulated several management principles which were relevant to the situation of Moses then and which can be applied even today.
Admit to yourself that non-stop working is unsustainable
Jethro didn’t hold anything back and in a matter-of-fact manner told Moses that what he was doing was certainly not good. It was neither good for Moses nor for the people Moses was leading, as both stood at the risk of wearing themselves out. He told Moses that what he was doing was too much for one person to perform by himself.
Effectively, Jethro was telling Moses that eventually he would break down. We all know that you can’t keep working 12-hour days, 6 days in a week, and still expect to come out unscathed. Eventually, something will give: your sanity, your health, your career, your family, or your own promising legacy. Even worse, Moses stood at the risk of wearing out his people. For your own sake—and that of your people, you must appreciate and admit the reality. Your current strategy is simply not working.
Know that yours is a unique calling
Jethro had seen something extremely significant. He saw that while Moses perhaps could do lots of things quite well, he appeared to have a unique calling in which he alone brought more value.
As we see in Chapter 18 verses 19-20 of the Book of Exodus, Jethro exhorted Moses:
“Listen now to my voice; I will give you counsel, and God will be with you: Stand before God for the people, so that you may bring the difficulties to God. And you shall teach them the statutes and the laws, and show them the way in which they must walk and the work they must do”
Precisely what Jethro, his own father –in-law was telling him was that he needed to offload himself of those things which other people could perform, so that he could give his attention those things that which only he could perform or do, namely going before God and teaching the people what to do.
This is a principle that applies to you as a leader. In whatever you are doing, where exactly is it that you bring the most value—that special thing that you are personally, uniquely qualified and called to do? Then how can you go about delegating the rest?
Select several qualified leaders to help you
Here Jethro gets very practical and gently gives Moses a rebuke and admonition telling him he was not the only person who could get the job done. He needed to get some trusted leaders to help in sharing the load as there was no reason why he should bear it alone. We see in verse 21a Jethro telling Moses:
“Moreover you shall select from all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, [and] hating covetousness…..”
Worth noting here is that Jethro focused is on character. Your chosen people can gain experience and the necessary knowledge, they can master skills and even greatly develop their personal leadership gifts, but the place where you must begin is with a solid foundation of a godly character. With such a character, it becomes much easier for you to delegate effectively and with confidence.
Give your chosen leaders authority and responsibility
Jethro was apparently a very practical man. He clearly understood that a typical leader’s span-of-control is around 10 people. He guided Moses in setting up a simplified organizational hierarchy that had different responsibility levels. He gave a clear outline:
“… and place such over them to be rulers of thousands, rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens. And let them judge the people at all times” (Ex. 18: 21b).
This is certainly not complex rocket science and neither is it a bureaucratic setup. The various levels of management proposed by Jethro were not designed to hamper or impede the decision-making process but rather to facilitate it and making it more effective. The key lies in giving your chosen leaders real authority. Yes, they are bound to make mistakes, but you must get over that. This is the price that comes with developing leaders.
1. Only undertake what others can’t
2. Moses was advised by Jethro to manage by exception:
“And let them judge the people at all seasons: and it shall be, that every great matter they shall bring unto thee, but every small matter they shall judge: so shall it be easier for thyself, and they shall bear the burden with thee.” (Ex18:22b)
The Navigators founder Dawson Trotman once observed that a leader should never do anything of great significance that other people in the team can do or will do when so much of important things to be done are there, which others cannot do by themselves or are no going not to do. This is definitely an invaluable piece of advice for every good leader. Identify where you can bring unique added value and let that be your main focus and let everything else go.
How does Jethro conclude his counsel to Moses?
“If you do this thing, and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all this people will also go to their place in peace.”(Ex 18:23)
It is important to note how Moses is promised two beneficial possible outcomes by the experienced priest Jethro:
1. Moses himself will endure (Strategy Sustainability)
2. People will have peace (Fewer Conflicts).
Management ability is not an inborn characteristic, but is something that is learned. Good leaders are made and not born. Moses was called by God to lead the children of Israel, yet even with many years of education acquired in Egypt plus the practical experience, he still had lots to learn. This ought to be an encouraging thing to those who feel that perhaps administration is really not their forte. We can learn from the case of Moses and Jethro that it’s possible to learn how to become better administrators, better managers, and ultimately better leaders for today’s modern and progressive. Are you a pastor or church leader? Want to learn more? Read the book.
Stantly G. Buford;
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The Moses Principle of Leadership: Teach, Tell and Train, By Stanley G Buford
Staff Writer; Ronald Poole