Leadership Lessons with Papa Jethro: Part 1

To me, Moses is one of the most fascinating characters in the Bible narrative. I never tire of the details of his walk with God as recorded in the Old Testament. Maybe it is because he was a reluctant leader in the beginning and yet God did such great things through Him. So it isn’t surprising that I recently found myself back in Exodus.

In Exodus 18: 13-18, we happen upon Moses having a conversation with his father-in-law, Jethro. Basically, Jethro saw how Moses sat before the people to judge their matters, asked him about the process, and then informed him that his process was no good.

Gee thanks Pops!

As I read through the passage though, I realized that Jethro has quite the wisdom to offer here and Moses was smart to pay attention to his words.

And really I think that is the first lesson.

“Listen” by Ky Olsen. Licensed through Creative Commons 2.0.

Lesson #1: Leaders listen.

Moses was obviously seen as a judge in the land. His job from morning to night had become that of listening to disputes, judging and making known the laws of God. He did a LOT of listening.

He probably got tired of it too. Imagine if everyone came to you with their problems every day (maybe that isn’t such a stretch for some of you!). However, even when exhausted, Moses cared for the people of Israel and took his job seriously.

I was once told that we have two ears and one mouth so it means that we should listen twice as much as we speak. I think that’s a fair assessment.

The students I am with on a regular basis will not hang around long if someone isn’t willing to hear them out and engage with them in conversation. If you proclaim to have all the answers then you actually lose out on the dialogue with people.

It doesn’t mean we do not speak, it just means that we should truly listen first.

This isn’t just about Moses listening to the people’s disputes though. After all, this is one of the reasons that Jethro declared that the current mode of operation was no good (not that he was listening to them, just that the job was too big for just Moses to handle… but that’s later).

I think it is huge that Moses recognized the voice of wisdom in his father-in-law.

At this point, God had already done a lot through Moses in leading the children of Israel out of Egypt. He could have been prideful and refused to listen. He didn’t stand up and say, “Now wait a second… what I’m doing is important and who are you to tell me that it isn’t good!” He didn’t make an excuse about being the only one who could do the job or get offended at Jethro, but instead he was humble and listened.

And sometimes that is hard to do.

I am not sure about you, but at times I want to stomp my foot and plug my ears and yell “la la la la la, I can’t hear you!” because I do not like being told that I am doing something incorrectly. Especially when it comes to issues of leadership, because my insecurities rise up and I want more than anything to prove I can do it well.

We all need those who are wiser to speak into our lives.

Sometimes we need to hear that what we are doing is not the best way and humbly listen to wise counsel. It may not be fun or easy, but it can be for the health of those we serve and for us personally.

What are your thoughts? Agree or disagree? Are you a listener? Do you have someone who gives you wise counsel from time to time?

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