I’ll be diverting from my series on “Every Woman Has a Ministry” for a while to share with you some things I learnt while still on my mini vacation in Lagos.
In last night’s family devotion with my extended family, we read from 1 Samuel 14:24-46.
Saul went into battle with the Philistines in the earlier verses of 1 Samuel 14. In 1 Samuel 14:24, the Israelites were weak because Saul had given an order with a solemn oath that anyone who eats food that day before he takes revenge on his enemies will incur a curse upon himself. So that day, nobody had eaten anything.
They all came to a wooden area where they found honey everywhere but because they were afraid of Saul’s curse, no one ate any of it. But Jonathan who had not heard his father’ threaten the people with a curse dipped the stick he was carrying in a honeycomb and ate some honey. He felt better at once. But one of the men told him they were all weak with hunger but his father had threatened them with a curse if they eat any food that day.
Jonathan told them his father had done a terrible thing to his people. He told them that he feels much better because he ate the honey and it would have been better if the people had eaten food because it would have helped them to kill more Philistines.
That day, the Israelites defeated the Philistines, fighting a long way and by that time, they were very weak with hunger so they rushed over to what they had captured from the enemy, slaughtered them on the spot, and ate it with the blood still in it. Eating meat with blood still in it was a sin against God.
A lot of other dramatic events happened but I’ll skip most of them and get to the point where Saul found out that Jonathan had disobeyed his order the day they were not to eat anything. Jonathan was ready to die and Saul said God should strike him dead if Jonathan was not killed. But the people defended Jonathan and saved him from being killed because they saw that it was Jonathan that won such a great victory for Israel.
There are so many lessons to learn from this story but I’ll focus on just one which my aunt emphasized yesterday during our devotion.
- The type of leadership style you choose will determine your success as a leader. Saul was an authoritative, self-centred leader. He was only concerned about destroying his enemies. He didn’t care about his people if they starved to death or not. This type of leadership style is still practiced today.
Some employers overwork their employees without caring about their well-being. Your employees need to be well taken care of. If you don’t pay them well, don’t expect them to work effectively. They need to also rest and enjoy life. Give them breaks, leisure time and time to spend with their family and friends. Don’t only be concerned about making profit or your own personal goals.
Some parents send their children to school with little food or money saying that it will help keep them focused on their studies. Some parents deprive their children of some luxuries and don’t want them to be comfortable so that they won’t be distracted. But do you know that sometimes when children are well taken care of and comfortable, they are in a better state of mind to study and excel in their academics? When you treat your domestic staff, employees and whoever you’re leading well, there is better chance for them to do better at their work.
- Notice that the Israelites were tempted to sin because they were hungry. If Saul had been considerate, they may not have been tempted to eat meat with blood in it. Threatening your children, staff, employees and followers will not guarantee their good behaviour rather it will create an avenue for them to yield to temptation. Have you ever wondered why children with strict parents are still rebellious? Now you know the answer.
This doesn’t mean you should spoil your children, staff, employees or followers. It doesn’t mean you should be too soft on them. But as a leader, you should first of all be considerate, compassionate and understanding. Learn to listen to them when they have complaints and understand things from their point of view. Sometimes they may be right. Just because you’re a leader doesn’t mean you’re all-knowing.
- As a leader, try not to use threats because when those threats are not carried out you lose your respect in the sight of others. Saul said may God strike him dead if Jonathan was not killed and Jonathan wasn’t killed. Don’t you think that it will be disgraceful to Saul and his people will begin to lose respect for him? It’s ok to set rules and state the consequences for breaking those rules but don’t use threats. “Let me die if you don’t lose your job”, “Let me cease to be your father if I don’t punish you”, “You will be cursed if you do this and do that”, etc. Threats are not necessary. It will not make people obey or respect you.
- Jonathan as the king’s son was supposed to be next in command but he didn’t even know of his father’s threat. Perhaps if his father had consulted him, Saul would have made a better decision. As a leader, learn to consult those you’re working with. Learn to ask for advice and carry your team along. Saul didn’t carry Jonathan along and this caused a division.
In the home the husband is the head of the house and the leader but for a better functioning of the home, he needs to carry his wife along, he needs to learn to consult her on some issues and ask for her advice and opinion. Doing this will not take away his position as the head of the home instead it will earn him more respect in his home. The same thing applies to other leadership positions, carry every member of your team along and don’t feel too big to ask for advice and suggestions.
- Jonathan was a good leader. His good leadership style earned him the respect of his people such that they defended him and saved him from being killed. When your children, employees or followers respect and love you, it will be easy for them to obey you and work effectively. You won’t have to shout too much to get work done. In the face of crises and danger, they’ll even risk their life for you. The Israelites were afraid of Saul but they had the courage to talk to Jonathan about his father’s threat. They were free with him. They could express their concerns and opinions without being punished. As a leader, try not to make those you’re leading afraid of you.
Jonathan was a leader that listened to the complaints and concerns of his people. He cared about their well-being. He wasn’t only concerned about himself. Be considerate of others feelings and needs. Don’t be self-centred.
You may not be a leader today but one day you may be. What type of leader do you want to be? Which leadership style do you choose?