12 Most Inspiring Leadership Lessons from Bible Characters

12 Most Inspiring Leadership Lessons from Bible Characters

The Bible has been around for thousands of years. Historically, it has been the cause of much good as well as the scapegoat for much dissension. Some have loved the book and some have hated it. When examined outside of its religious and historical context, though, and merely as a work of literature, few can say that it is anything less than a masterpiece.

The depth of character within the people of the Biblical stories is astounding. They faced great challenges and overcame them with faith and endurance. For leaders in business today, there is much to learn from these ordinary people who made decisions that transformed them into extraordinary legends. Organizational leadership is in dire need of that level of conviction and determination. The characters of the Bible can teach us a great deal.

1. Noah: Leaders do what’s right even if they are alone

In Genesis 6, God is despairing over the wickedness that has overtaken humanity. Reluctantly, he decides to wipe out the human race and start from scratch. Noah, however, is the only one who has not been corrupted. You know the story. God tells him to build an ark that will save him, his family, and a whole host of animal life. As he is boarding the ark, God says to him, “for you alone I have seen to be righteous before Me in this time.” Literally the whole world was doing what was wrong. But did that deter Noah from doing what was right? Not a chance!

2. Abraham: Leaders embrace the unknown

God approaches Abraham in Genesis 12 and tells him to “Go forth from your country, and from your relatives and from your father’s house, to the land which I will show you.” In other words, Abraham is instructed to leave his comfort zone and march onward into uncertainty. As business leaders, that’s a hot topic: managing risk and uncertainty. Great leaders embrace that uncertainty, because they know the truth: the promised land awaits them on the other side.

3. Joseph: Leaders endure in spite of circumstances

The story of Joseph beginning in Genesis 37 is powerful. The guy had a pretty tough life. He was sold into slavery by his jealous brothers. His father was told that he was killed by a wild animal. He was framed by his boss’s wife because he refused to sleep with her and was thrown into prison. He interpreted the dream of a prisoner who was released and restored to his position, but the guy forgot about him. In the end, though, Joseph became the leader of all Egypt–second only to the Pharaoh himself. When there is a famine, he is then able to save his family from starvation. He tells his brothers when he sees them again that, though they meant harm, God orchestrated the events to put Joseph in a position to save them. Leaders have a vision that sustains them through difficult times.

4. Moses: Leaders stick up for their people

Yes, it’s true. God has to be very convincing in order to get Moses to take action in Exodus 3. He at first gives excuse after excuse as to why he isn’t the right guy for the job. When he finally does answer his calling, though, Charlton Heston–err, I mean Moses, approaches Pharaoh and boldly passes on the iconic message: “Let my people go.” The Israelites, Moses’ native people, had been enslaved by Egypt and Moses was the one enlisted to lead them to freedom. When the time came, Moses was willing to step up and lead.

5. Joshua: Leaders rule by example rather than command

In Joshua 24, after leading his people into a new land, Joshua offers the Israelites the option to either A) serve the God who they had always served, the one who had brought them into the land or B) serve the gods of the surrounding lands. “But as for me and my house,” he says, “we will service the Lord.” The people answer in unison that they will pledge their allegiance to God. Because they believe in Joshua’s leadership, they follow Joshua’s example. He doesn’t have to threaten them; he merely inspires them by his example.

6. David: Leaders are not afraid of giants

Everybody knows this story. In 1 Samuel 17, the Israelites are being defeated by the Philistines and their 9-foot tall giant–Goliath. Goliath taunts the Israelites and challenges them to send him one man and, if that man should defeat him, the Philistines would become their servants. David, a small shepherd boy who will not even fit into the armor he is provided, volunteers. When Goliath mocks him, David says, “You come to me with a sword, a spear, and a javelin, but I come to you in the name of the Lord of hosts, whom you have taunted.” With that, he takes a stone, slings it at Goliaths forehead, and knocks the giant to the ground–dead. In other words, you can face any challenge as long as you have conviction and strength of resolve on your side.

7. Isaiah: Leaders rise to the occasion

In a vision Isaiah has in Isaiah 6, God asks who he should send as a prophet to His people. Isaiah responds, “Here am I. Send me!” Leaders don’t wait to see if anyone else is going to step up when something needs done. They take initiative. They are first to raise their hands. First to stand. First to speak up. First to make decisions. Leaders shun inaction and are always ready to take the plunge at a moment’s notice.

8. Daniel: Leaders maintain their resolve without regard for consequences

Many of us know the story of Daniel in the lion’s den. Daniel, in Daniel 6, is a highly esteemed government official whose colleagues become jealous. Seeking to get rid of him and knowing that he is a religious man, his colleagues convince the king to enact a decree saying that prayer can be made to no god except for the king. Once the decree is made, Daniel continues on praying and giving thanks to his God just like he always did. When he is caught, his colleagues tell their king and he is forced to throw Daniel into the den of lions. The next morning, the king finds Daniel alive. The lions had not harmed him. The point? Daniel’s faith in his God is what made him great in first place. Knowing this, he would not recant regardless of what happened to him. Great leaders follow this example and maintain steadfast in their convictions regardless of what happens.

9. John the Baptist: Leaders aren’t afraid to call out the phonies

John the Baptist, in Matthew 3, is baptizing people and preaching about the coming of Jesus. When a pretentious, self-righteous group of religious officials comes for baptism, he calls them out for what they are: “a brood of vipers.” Leaders aren’t afraid to call it like it is. Whether they are suppliers, employees, or even customers, leaders have what it takes to be brutally honest with the people they come in contact with.

10. Jesus: Leaders are servants

One of the most powerful images in the life of Jesus is when he washes his disciples’ feet in John 13. When he is finished, he says to them, “You call me teacher and Lord, and you are right, for so I am. If I then, the Lord and teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.” Jesus, of course, isn’t talking about feet. He’s talking about servant-leadership. Great leaders focus on serving those who follow them. Great leaders wash their people’s feet.

11. Peter: Leaders recover from failure

Peter, the most well-known disciple of Jesus, denies even knowing Him three times while Jesus is being crucified. Jesus had predicted he would do it, though Peter insisted he would never deny Jesus–even to the death. When the rooster crows (what Jesus said would happen), Peter realizes what he had done and weeps bitterly. In Acts 2, we see Peter giving the first sermon after Jesus’s ascension into heaven–to a crowd of thousands of people when he had previously denied Jesus in front of just a few days earlier. Leaders don’t become discouraged when they fail. They don’t wallow in self-pity and give up due to the mishap. They pick themselves back up and continue on. Leaders do better next time.

12. Paul: Leaders are passionate for what they believe in

Paul, throughout his life recorded in Acts, is a very zealous individual. As a Pharisee, he violently opposes the spread of Christianity, going out of his way to see Christians killed and imprisoned. When Jesus appears to him in Acts 9 and changes his mind, he becomes equally adamant about the truth of Christianity. Paul travels across all of the known world, spreading the message about Jesus and establishing churches everywhere he went. Leaders are driven by a sense of purpose. Leaders have a fire lit under them and feel compelled to accomplish their objectives. There is no place for apathy in the life of a leader. Leaders always care…and care deeply.

Have you had the opportunity to implement any of these leadership practices? What leadership qualities do you see in the characters of the Bible? What about from other works of literature? We’d love to hear your feedback!

Featured image courtesy of NYC Wanderer licensed via Creative Commons.

Doug Rice

http://www.douglaserice.com

Douglas E. Rice is a marketer, writer, and researcher who blogs regularly. He is the author of The Curiosity Manifesto, a provocative guide to learning new things and keeping an open mind.

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36 comments
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With the exception of Peter, you how FAR from perfect human leaders are. Every one of these men except for Jesus, the God-man (and even He begged for another path when it came to the cross - dread is not failure), experienced massive failures in their walk with the LORD, YHWH. But God, the True, Living God, uses flawed people to lead flawed in such a way that it advanced and glorifies His perfect Kingdom. To GOD be the glory!

skooter
skooter

skooter a 30yr old women enjoyed the post a great deal..lol

LaqueshaTurner
LaqueshaTurner

I got promoted and am moving to a new store for training I'm so nervous and needed help from god knowing what to say and how to act he took me to this website from Google and I am at ease and peace knowing I have something to refer to as a reminder of what god expects and can work out through me thanks for putting this up please don't ever take it down us believers need things like this to help guide us along my god bless u evermore

claudia miriam
claudia miriam

Well done Doug! Long time ago I had done a gallery of bible women characters sermon pointing out  our humanity and how we women were used supernaturally when yielding to our God. And yes everything in the Bibile points to Yeshua/Jesus and the true Bible leaders or characters with what it takes to be a leader if only in their own home, live out to these great truth of all.


Another point of interest: most of the christian characters nowadays in leadership position in the mission field are single women. You will see them, the ladies, in the mission field whereas not so much for lone christian males.


And yes the women were the first to announce and the first to know the facts about their faith and they had no tablets. Leaders are generally multitask but know to prioritize.


Again, well done Doug. Very didactic. Very inspiring, I can tell from my heart. Have a great day and May God continue to bless you as you write!


claudia miriam


claudia miriam
claudia miriam

I thank God for the wisdom and knowledge He gives to those who love Him. Your post has inspired me and I will use it as framework for a leadership seminar for christians leaders in the middleast. I thought of definitely adding women characters such as Ruth: Leaders make decisions even in the face of the unknown; leaders care. Deborah: leaders are courageous. Mary: leaders are ahead of their times; they have supernatural faith; they are obedient; they are ready to serve, they are humble.


God bless you!


claudia miriam  miriamhaisraelhotmail.com

Christonya
Christonya

This was an amazing resource for a Celebrate Recovery Leadership training I did last week.  Thank you for the inspiration and the WELL worded short captions for each bible character. 

clair
clair

Wow, i really enjoyed reading this and your comments also. Clear and well thought. May God give you more and more wisdom and may you continue serving him. Merci!

Musembi
Musembi

awesome !!!the notes have inspired me...thanx

RasheedTaju
RasheedTaju

All thanks to you rice; your content here has made my work for a certain project easy. thanks to you.

robert
robert

thank you i'm looking for this kind of materials, thank you for such an effort to have this kind of studies in the great leaders of the past, they are worth to be followed. of course the great leader among the leaders from past up to the future is the Lord Jesus. thank you, well done short summary of great leaders

Bobby Joe Tucker
Bobby Joe Tucker

Hitler was a leader too. He was able to lead an entire country!

Martin D Redmond
Martin D Redmond

What a great idea to draw parallels between the Bible and business! This was so enjoyable for me to read. I've often thought to myself, even for those who embrace religion/faith, that the Bible is full of positive lessons, and positive thinking principles. You post brings that home for me!

PegFitzpatrick
PegFitzpatrick moderator

Doug,

Really great, comprehensive post. The lessons are certainly there to learn from. So excited for a Part 2 for this post!

Thanks for this!

jodineibeme
jodineibeme

Jesus did preach how one should behave as a leader. The ten commandments are the rules to live by.

jodineibeme
jodineibeme

Our male leaders today need reminder of how these men fo the bible were great leaders.

jenjarratt
jenjarratt

Interesting list, Doug. Just a note though. "Men" does not equal "people." "Men" + "women" equal "people." This is an all-male list and some of them are distinctly paternalistic (as is the Bible, if I remember my studies correctly). What does the Bible have to say about female leadership? As I remember, the women in the Bible are frequently those who tempt and betray these fine male leaders. I certainly never read the Bible for examples of how I should behave as a leader.

I'd have to go back and study again, but my main remembrance of women in the Bible is endurance under hardship and the potential mortal danger of not behaving in the way the male leadership insisted women should behave.

jodineibeme
jodineibeme

All of them.

St. Paul makes a beliver out of me. He endured a lot because of his great belief. St. Paul helps me to keep the faith no matter what I go through. He found a way to be always happy, give praise and be thankful no matter how bad things were for him.

jodineibeme
jodineibeme

Thank you for a great and inspiring post.

BruceSallan
BruceSallan

Wonderfully creative and inspiring, Doug. There is NO end to the learning we can get from The Bible and its amazing cast of characters!

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