As a person in a position of leadership in multiple organizations, I love learning from other leaders any chance I get. The book of Judges covers the stories of many leaders. These Judges, unfortunately, do many things that one should not strive to emulate. While reading this book recently, Gideon’s leadership journey really resonated with me.
Gideon was raised into a position of leadership in response to Israel’s oppression under the Midianites. Gideon initially went into battle with men from three different tribes. Facing the super-power of the day, they were greatly outnumbered to begin with. When Gideon and the Israelites reached the Midian camp, the Lord told Gideon that their small army had too many people. Human tendency and pride would allow the Israelites to boast that their immanent victory was because of their own doing, not because of the power of the Spirit. So in view of the strength of the Midian army, Gideon was commanded to release any solider who was afraid to enter into battle. 22,000 men left the army that day. I can only imagine the pain, anger and confusion that Gideon was feeling. He was being obedient to the leading of the Spirit but obedience went against logic. I wonder how Gideon’s military officials responded to his command. After he loses a majority of his enlisted men, the Lord cut down the ranks until a hodgepodge group of 300 soldiers remained. Gideon, through the power of the Spirit, wins the battle and frees Israel from oppression.
Even before all the fighting stops, Gideon is confronted by angry Israelites. The tribe of Ephraim comes to Gideon complaining that they were excluded from battle and taking grate offense ate being ignored. They yell at Gideon, “Why have you treated us like this? Why didn’t you call us when you went to fight Midian?” They challenged him vigorously (Judges 8:1). I am sure the word they actually used to challenge Gideon could not be printed in the Good Book. The Ephraimites were angry at Gideon for no logical reason. Gideon asked for the tribes in the East to assist him in defeating Midian, Ephraim was in the middle of the country. Never mind that 99% of the troops that responded to Gideon’s call here sent home. It is incredibly unlikely that even if soldiers from Ephraim reported for duty that Gideon would have allowed them into battle. There was no logical reason for Ephraim to be mad at Gideon and yet they vigorously challenged him. Oh the joys of leadership!
Two leadership principles stuck out to me in Gideon’s story.
1. People are going to be upset with you and disagree with a decision you make. It is an inevitable consequence of leadership. There is no way to make everyone happy and prevent conflict. It is the reality of the leadership journey.
2. Being obedient to the leading of the Spirit is not always logical or easy to explain. Only in the Kingdom economy does the underdog enter battle with 300 people and win. It will not always be possible to logically explain to those under my leadership why I am making certain decisions. While I can’t make everyone happy, I can at least be obedient.
These are two very good things to keep in my. I can try to defend myself until I am blue in the face or I can trying to resolve the conflict and move forward. Gideon’s response to Ephraim’s anger is also something to emulate. He does not defend his actions but offers a solution to move forward. He finds a way to bring the tribe of Ephraim into the plan. This is a great leadership tools as well. Inviting people to be a part of the solution is always a better plan than explaining the solution.