A man in his 40’s with little leadership experience assumes the highest position in the land. The man who came before him had made a number of bad decisions that had damaged the nation. Once unified and strong as a people, feared and respected by other countries, the people were now disheartened and on the verge of becoming divided. The young leader faced immense challenges. How would he respond?
Immediately after being announced as the next leader he was faced with a challenge from the people. Would he continue the policies of his predecessor or would he take a softer approach? The fate of the nation depended on his response. He turned first for an answer to wise and experienced men, men who understood the workings of the system and had political experience. When they did not give him the counsel he wanted, he instead turned to his long term advisers, men about his age who had climbed the ladder with him and who understood his desires and goals. It was the advice of the young counselors he decided to follow.
And the nation split.
The man was Rehoboam, the son of Solomon, the grandson of David, King of Israel. The story is over 3000 years old but it has not lost any of its relevance. When new leaders come into power their initial actions and responses can dramatically impact the future of the people they desire to lead. One mistake can lead to disaster.
In the case of Rehoboam, his father had been harsh and domineering. The people felt abused and uncared for. On the day he was to be made king they asked him a simple question and made a straight-forward promise. “Will you lessen the burden of your father? If you do, we will serve you.”
The counsel of the experienced men was that Rehoboam listen to the people and respond in kindness. These elders told the young king-to-be that if he handled the situation with grace and gentleness, if he assumed the role of a servant king, the people would serve him forever. Sadly, gentleness and grace did not align with Rehoboam’s ideas of kingship. He wanted power and authority.
Looking for validation of his ideas, he went to the friends he had grown up with. These young men, who had no concept of the responsibilities of leadership, shared Rehoboam’s desire for power and the belief that power and strength were the foundation of authority. Their counsel was that Rehoboam declare that he was going to be bigger, stronger and harsher than his father had been. Rehoboam listened to his friends.
When the people heard Rehoboam’s harsh response they rebelled. The kingdom was split and the nation was divided, beginning a downward spiral that ended with the divided nation being conquered and its people living in exile.
In this story are valuable lessons for leaders of today. Lessons that cannot be ignored by those who wish to succeed in leadership. If one is to lead, these principles are essential-
- Good leaders listen to the people they lead. Predetermined plans carried out by edict will lead to division.
- Good leaders seek and follow wise counsel. Yes-men are dangerous. Successful leaders look to experienced people who will speak truth, even when it is difficult.
- Good leaders serve. Leaders are responsible to, and for, the people under their care. Self-serving leaders will inevitably fail.
- Selfish leaders divide their people. A house divided against itself cannot stand, and divisiveness destroys a church or organization. Unity will require sacrifice.
If you are in a position of leadership and people are not following you as you wish they would, take the time to review the lessons of Rehoboam. The future of your people, your church or your business may depend on it.
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