How can a 3,000-year-old text speak to 21st-century leadership?
Let me tell you a story …
Many years ago, as I was working on my doctoral dissertation, I was exploring the last few words of the Torah and its final description of the great leader Moses. I realized the passage itself was actually an epithet – the final assessment of the life and leadership of Moses.
I noticed that the text had an apparent structure that revealed a divine evaluation for those who read it in Hebrew. Translated and restructured (and skipping over the underlying elements of Hebrew grammar and literary techniques in the text), the text of Deuteronomy 34:10-12 looks like this:
There has not arisen again, a prophet in Israel like Moses:
Whom the Lord knew face to face
in all the signs and wonders,
Whom the Lord sent
to do in the land of Egypt (to Pharaoh and all his servants and his land)
in all the mighty power, and
in all the great terror,
Who accomplished it (Moses)
in the sight of all Israel.
Do you see the three-part structure?
If we had more time and space, we could explore it in more detail, but let me highlight the core elements. According to this text, Moses was an unequalled leader because of three characteristics that defined his life and leadership:
- he was known by God,
- he was sent by God, and
- he accomplished what he was sent to do.
Simple but profound.
First, Moses’ leadership was defined and shaped by something (actually someone) bigger than himself. Moses knew that it was not all about him. His outward expression of leadership was simply the logical extension of his inward relationship with God.
Second, Moses had a mission, a purpose. Moses was a driven leader. His drivenness, though, was not just a Type A personality quirk, but rather, it too came out of something bigger than himself. Moses believed that his calling, his purpose, was something given to him and he couldn’t fight it (although he tried to at first!). Moses felt called to make a radical difference in the world around him.
Third, Moses accomplished his mission. Moses’ leadership was not defined by intentions, goals, plans, or ideas alone. Moses was a man of action. He followed through. He was relentless. He was not perfect, but he was not a quitter, even when the burden of leadership became almost unbearable.
What can we learn about leadership today from a leader like Moses?
- Is your core identity larger than just your abilities? Or are your life and leadership all about you? Do you think you are the most important person in the room or organization? Where does God factor into your leadership? Does God serve you, or do you serve God?
- Do you lead with a clear sense of purpose and calling? Do you know how to figure out your calling? Do you want to change the world?
- Are you a leader who is relentlessly focused on accomplishing your mission? Or are you easily distracted? Are you a leader with good intentions or a leader of action? Do you follow through?
Whew … that is a lot to think about, isn’t it?
I hope you read Moses’ story as described in the Bible and reflect on his life and leadership.
It has affected how I lead, and perhaps it might influence you as well.