Not too many of us will ever lead a group or organization with a million or more people like Moses did. But just about all of us will have the chance to lead at least a few people. Parents and grandparents lead their families. At work you might have some employees you’re responsible for. Or you might be a volunteer leader at a local school or in your church. As we continue looking at Deuteronomy 1, Moses gives us four important leadership principles that apply to just about anyone.
First, sit down with those you lead and tell the story of how you got to the point you’re at. This is especially important for people who are new to your group. But even if the people you are leading have been around for a while, it is important to remind them of the history of your organization. The entire book of Deuteronomy is Moses’ last words of reminder and remembrance to the people of Israel. A new generation of Israelites was about to enter the land God had promised their forefather Abraham about 500 years earlier. These newbies needed to know how they got there and why. Moses wasn’t going to be leading them, making sure they followed God’s leading and law. He knew how fickle the people of Israel were. There were plenty of times he needed to advocate for them before God because they had screwed up so bad. So he wanted to make sure they knew the story of God and kept the law of God intact, long after he was gone.
Leader, you carry the history of your group with you like no other. Are you telling people that story?
Second, raise up and rely on other leaders. In Deuteronomy 1:9-18, Moses, as he is telling the people their history, gets to the part where he divided the people up into groups, placing judges over them. Moses was only to deal with the hard cases. This is a very smart move. There’s no way Moses could have enough time to solve the problems of a nation that probably numbered a couple million people at this point. Years earlier his father-in-law, Jethro, had advised him to break the people into groups, or Moses was going to burn himself out. Again we see the leadership genius of Moses. Delegating, raising up leaders. And a subpoint here. Listen to those older and wiser than you. I can hear my father-in-law already, “Yeah, see! You need to listen to me!” But it’s true. While Moses was leading a nation, Jethro was leading Moses, and Moses was humble and teachable to rely on Jethro’s advice.
Leader, who are you raising up to help you? Who are you relying on for wisdom? Don’t go it alone.
Third, seek perspective before making a big move. Moses continues talking to the people in verses 19-25. Remember that in verses 1-8, the Lord had instructed them to take the Land. Moses is still sitting down having his fireside chat, reminding them of what happened to get to that point. In the story they started the initial process of taking the land, but they get to the border and stop. Rather than just barge in, they make a wise move, which is to get some intelligence data. What are they up against? Strong people groups? Weak people groups? What is it going to take to win over the Promised Land? They propose a spy mission, choosing 12 men to be the secret agents. The 12 spy the land, and come back with a report that it is a good land. Things sound great.
Leader, are you faced with making a big move? Maybe you’re seeking a career change, maybe a company change, maybe hiring or firing employees. Parents, are you dealing with some tough issues with your kids? Get some intel. We can get so frustrated waiting in the middle of a difficult situation, and we just want out. The emotional toll can be heavy, urging us to react. Follow Moses’ lead, take a pause, gather data. What are you up against? What are your options?
Fourth, tell the whole truth to your people; the truth about them and about you. Continue reading Deuteronomy 1:26 to the end. Up to this point, things have been going so good. But now Moses has to tell the cold, hard truth to the new generation. Some of the 12 spies got freaked by what they saw in Canaan. So Moses says that their parents were disobedient, fearful, mistrusting, and rebellious. Why would Moses rehash all this? How would you feel about having your family’s past mistakes brought out in front of you? It is highly likely that Moses wanted to share a warning to the next generation. “Look, here is how we got to the point where we are at. I want you to learn from this. You are starting something new. Don’t repeat the mistakes from the past. So be reminded of that God is with you.” See in verses 29-30 how he wants to encourage them that God is with them? Then in verses 42-46, he refers to the part of the story where God specifically reached out to the nation, giving them guidance. “Don’t go fight yet, or you will be defeated.” But they didn’t listen and tried to fight anyway. And they were beat. Moses wants the next generation to do better than their parents. He wants them to obey the Lord. That means Moses needs to talk about himself too. Not only do the people rebel, and lose their trust in God, but we also read that Moses is not able to enter land. We’ll spend more time on why Moses is barred from the Land when we come to chapter 3. The point here is that Moses is honest about himself, willing to share his mistakes.
Leader, are you honest with your people? Do you tell them the hard truth? Are you vulnerable with them about your failings? This is a hard one for me, as I tend to be a people-pleaser. I can get really nervous that I will hurt feelings, or people will get upset at me, and thus avoid telling the truth.
Moses is considered to be one of the greatest leaders in history. Perhaps these four principles can help you grow as a leader.