Monday, September 28, 2009

A Leadership Mistake

"You are not able to do it alone." These were the famous words uttered by Moses' father-in-law to Moses as he was emerging as the leader of God's people.

Leadership is lonely business, that's for sure. And it is that feeling of leadership loneliness that can lead to one of the most common leadership mistakes – trying to do it all by yourself. After all, if you're the leader, aren't you expected to do it all?

This is where we find Moses after he successfully leads the people out from under the tyranny of the Egyptian Empire. But one advantage of being under Egyptian rule was that everyone knew what was expected. They knew where to go when injustice reared its head. But now, delivered from Pharaoh, they people have no government order at all. No laws, or politicians, or lawyers (imagine a world with no lawyers!), or tax system, you get the idea. All the people have is Moses.

Passage for Reflection: Exodus 18

Moses falls into the leadership trap of believing that he has to do it all. He begins to spend each and every day sitting in a tent with lines of people standing outside with their problems. They've come to Moses to pass judgment. This goes on day after day. Finally, Moses' father-in-law, Jethro, comes for a visit and sees what is going on. He sees the problem immediately. He confronts Moses with the obvious, "Hey Moses, you can't do this by yourself. You need help."

He then gives Moses a plan, a system to divide the people into thousands, then hundreds, then fifties, then tens. Each group will have someone over them. Moses' job will be to oversee the system. This will free up Moses and make him a more effective leader. It also engages other people, giving them ownership, which in turn will instill loyalty to Moses. It's a win-win for everyone.

Listen, I know the temptation. It's always easier to do something yourself rather than train someone else to do it. For one, it will take two hours to train someone to do what you can do in five minutes. But this is short-sighted thinking, because once trained, you can then walk away. Plus never underestimate the value of empowering someone else.

Have kids? Remember it is vital that you practice delegation with your kids – washing dishes, mowing the lawn, taking out the trash, dusting, vacuuming, etc. Not only are you not able to do it alone, you shouldn't do it alone.

A leader must focus on the things that ONLY they can do. Everything else must be delegated out.

Remember: "You are not able to do it alone."

"Lord, may I practice the wisdom of delegation. Amen."



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