Getting Rich vs. Growing Rich in Investments

King Solomon once noted that there is really nothing new under the sun. Others have opined that the more things change, the more they stay the same. Acquiring wealth is no exception.

Getting Rich Quickly?

People have been trying to “get rich quick” since the dawn of time, and the vast majority have been wiped out, physically or financially, as a result. In antiquity, defeating your enemies in battle and plundering them was a great path to violent death for most, but great riches for a few.

In later times, the Dutch economy foundered under the frenzy known as Tulipmania (1636-7), British investors went broke in the aftermath of the South Sea Bubble (1719-1721), and the French lost heavily investing in the Mississippi Company (1719).

People flocked to California in 1849 and Alaska in the 1890s, hoping to make a fortune in the Gold Rush. Many sacrificed family, adequate employment and even life itself for a few gold flakes and the chance at more. The only ones who consistently made money in the gold rushes were those who set up retail or transportation networks to sell supplies to prospectors, tourists, and others.

The Roaring 20s and the 90s ended in stock market disaster as people, both entrepreneurs and investors, tried to get rich quick. Gambling can easily make otherwise financially solvent people into paupers. The lottery is a great way to slowly bleed money away from people who can ill afford to waste even a dollar with the false hope of fabulous wealth. The chance of getting struck by lightning in the United States in a given year is about 3 million to one. The chance of winning a state lottery is about 18 million to one.

It is undeniable that a small percentage of people win big in investing in a short period of time, but most who make the risky investments required to win big only lose big.

Growing Rich Slowly

Just as “Get Rich Quick” fever has afflicted man since the dawn of time, so wise people have built real wealth in about the same way since the dawn of time. To “get rich” suggests images of floods of money rolling in, while to grow rich suggests the slow, steady growth of the oak tree.

The first and most important truth about investing is that the soundness of an investment in a company is directly related to the character and competence of its management. In his New York Times bestseller “The Warren Buffett Way”, Warren Buffett describes his approach to buying companies. He wrote that nothing is more important to a business (and a successful investment) than the character and competence of those running the business. Businesses run by men and women of integrity, industry and imagination/vision usually succeed in the long run. Those run by people whose primary motivation is money, or who are selfish, vain or lazy, almost invariably fail over time.

Henry Ford’s primary vision in the 1920s was for people using automobiles to drive away from the dirty cities and get away into the magnificence of Creation. It was not primarily focused on how much money he could make. As a result, for decades Ford was the greatest name in automobiles. Visions of money can motivate in the short term, but ultimately they have no power to inspire the soul and to move people to accomplish great things.

Whether “brick and mortar” or Internet companies, business success comes the same way. In the frenzy of the late 90s, many companies ignored the fundamental question, “How do I provide value to my customers at a reasonable cost?” and were enamored by the medium, the Internet. Consider the top ten reasons why businesses fail:

1. Inability to manage a loss of revenue 2. Insufficient business know how 3. Inadequate business planning 4. Too little capital and too much credit 5. Failure of marketing 6. Location that does not meet the needs of customers 7. Being out-competed 8. Growing too fast 9. Failure to innovate

Each of these problems can be minimized by intelligent effort and hard work. For the investor, it is best to place money in areas that he understands and enjoys. He should put his resources into causes he believes in. In these areas he is more likely to do the research and make the right decisions. An investor who objected to gambling should not invest in a casino.

Time honored techniques such as dollar cost averaging (investing a set amount every month) and diversifying (not putting all of one’s money into one investment or one category of investments) are useful. Investing in low cost index funds rather than actively managed funds is generally prudent. Investing according to each individual’s time and risk goals is a must.

Conclusion

The first secret to getting rich in investing is to do so slowly. The second is to find the right company with the right leadership team. Third, the fundamentals such as finance, operations, and leadership might not be exciting, and figuring them out takes a lot of work. Still, they are the cornerstone of business success and investor profits. Like everything else in life there are no guarantees of wealth, but these following these fundamentals will help any investor have the greatest chance of reaping great financial rewards.

Jesus, an Example of Mentoring Leadership

One of the greatest strengths of mentoring leaders is the ability to teach.  To reproduce himself, a man must teach, by words and by actions, those who are learning from him.  Jesus taught large groups and the people marveled at the wisdom and authority of His words.  He was doing His most important work, however, when He was teaching small groups of His disciples and other followers (Luke 24:32).

Mentoring leaders also use gifts of exhortation to mentor those entrusted to them.  Exhortation includes encouragement and instruction to do the right and wise thing.  After Peter’s proclamation of faith in Matthew 16:16, Jesus encouraged him.  After Peter denied Jesus in Matthew 26:69-75, Jesus encouraged him again (John 21:15-17).  Many times in the gospels Jesus exhorted His disciples.  Such gifts as exhortation and teaching are evidence of excellent communication, in this case sharing leadership principles and examples to the next generation of leaders.

Mentoring leadership is difficult in postmodern Western culture.  Technology has allowed us to be much more transient, changing homes, jobs, and even families at a rate unheard of in generations past.  Such technology allows us instant gratification.  We get what we want immediately by downloading it or having it delivered the next day and distribute what we want by uploading it or sending it.

Another problem is that we cocoon, doing things at home that used to require interaction with others.  Since so much entertainment is at home, including television, radio, internet, video and computer games, movies, and other things, people no longer have to mingle with others for something to do.  While our great grandparents might sit on the front porch and talk to neighbors for hours in the evenings, we sit alone in front of our computer interacting with people we will never meet on Facebook or watching the latest video on You Tube.  Even work can be done at home.

The rapid growth of information has made old information obsolete faster than ever before.  Cultural change also occurs more quickly.  Thus the aged, seen as founts of knowledge and wisdom in the past, are now seen merely as outdated.  In a previous generation a young girl might have asked her grandmother for advice on how to find a good husband.  Now, the teenager would probably never ask, and may reply “times have changed, grandma” if the older woman volunteered advice.  More likely, the younger woman would probably be more concerned about a good job than a good husband, and the elder would be even less able to help.

Another difficulty is that our society tells us constantly that doing bigger things is more important.  Leaders grow to believe that teaching a class of 10 is fine but teaching a class of 400 is better.  Better still is preaching to 5000, running a Fortune 500 company, or winning the Nobel Prize.  Why invest your life in a few when you can invest in millions?

These cultural changes increase the dangers in mentoring leadership compared to the past.  Mentors may become impatient with their mentees when the latter don’t seem to be learning.  Many times my wife and I have wondered if our children were getting anything we were saying.  Sometimes mentees turn out bad, like Judas Iscariot with Jesus Christ.

Another large problem is that mentors must give their charges more than information…they must give them their lives.  Each generation needs to learn from those that went before, the good and the bad.  Mentors cannot isolate themselves from those they mentor.  Further, in the day of zero tolerance for errors, mentors can become so afraid to let their mentees fail that they do everything themselves.  This may cause mentors to neglect other responsibilities which only they can do.  The end result of this “do everything” spiral is burnout.

Jesus mentored well, managing to avoid the problems and dangers and build His disciples into men who could lead a church which today covers the globe.  Since Deuteronomy 6, God has been telling His people to mentor others.  Jesus provides a fine example.

 

Hezekiah – an Example of Crisis Leadership

After the golden age of Israel, during the reigns of David and his son Solomon, Israel split apart.  The tribes of Judah and Benjamin kept Rehoboam, grandson of David as their king, but the northern ten tribes chose Jeroboam, an Ephraimite.  The subsequent history of Israel is a sad tale of uniformly evil rulers, people unfaithful to the Lord, and near extermination by the Assyrians two hundred years later (721 BC).  The history of Judah is little better, with a few good kings, including Asa, Jehoshaphat, Joash, Uzziah and Jotham interspersed with many evil ones.  Judah lasted 135 years longer than Israel but became progressively more wicked and was finally overwhelmed by the Babylonians under Nebuchadnezzar in 586 BC.

Hezekiah is described in 2 Kings 18:3 as “doing right in the sight of the Lord, according to all that his father David had done”.   He was an unlikely saint, because although his grandfather Jotham was a good king, his father Ahaz was one of Judah’s worst.  Hezekiah reigned during troubled times in Judah.  He began to rule shortly before the physically stronger Northern Kingdom had been wiped out by the Middle Eastern superpower, Assyria.  Ahaz had emptied his treasury to enlist their aid against Aram, and so Judah became dominated by Assyrian power (2 Kings 16:7-9).  Not long after Hezekiah came to power, he rebelled against Shalmaneser, king of Assyria (2 Kings 18:7).  It took Assyria a little time to respond and by the time they did, Sennacherib was the Assyrian ruler.  Hezekiah got a bit wobbly and relented (2 Kings 18:14) but Sennacherib had had enough and was intent on punishing Judah.  Situated as he was between one bad king and another, Hezekiah’s reign was crisis-filled.  With Sennacherib’s desire for revenge, one of Hezekiah’s greatest crises began.

Sennacherib had rampaged through the Judean fortress cities and finally took the greatest and strongest, Lachish (Isaiah 36:1).  Then, ignoring Hezekiah’s pleas for peace, he marched on Jerusalem.  The Assyrian army was one of the strongest military forces in antiquity.  They had perfected the use of combined arms including infantry, chariots, and siege machinery.  Assyria achieved logistic excellence which gave their army a long range capability not much surpassed until the advent of the internal combustion engine over two millennia later.  They made effective use of iron deposits in eastern Anatolia, equipping their soldiers in a way no army in Palestine could match.   Further, Assyria was ruthless, perfecting the use of terror as a weapon of war.   Militarily speaking, Hezekiah had no hope of defeating Assyria.  Once Sennacherib had refused to accept his apology and his tribute, Hezekiah had to play his cards right.

Sennacherib sent a messenger, Rabshekah, to stand before the walls of Jerusalem and speak to Hezekiah and the people.  His speech, recorded in Isaiah 36:4-20, is a masterpiece of political terror, intended to undermine the courage of the Jewish defenders.  Rabshekah spoke Judean and was very familiar with the culture and religion of his Judean prey.  Note that the Assyrians never offered conditions of peace; they simply wanted Jerusalem to fall without a fight.  As befits a good crisis leader, Hezekiah avoided escalating the situation while he figured out what was really going on (Isaiah 36:21).

Rabshekah’s speech enabled his companions to observe the state of the defenses and bought time to bring up the army.  It also gave Hezekiah a chance to learn more about the situation and figure out what to do.  Seeing the hopelessness of his plight, at least from the standpoint of man, Hezekiah passionately sought the Lord.  This is a remarkable contrast with his father Ahaz’ response in a similar situation (Isaiah 7:1-20).

Hezekiah’s next move was to lay his request, with complete honesty, before the Lord.  He was not posturing or pretending.  He never said “Thy will be done” when he really wanted salvation from the Assyrian sword.  He laid himself on the line before his God (Isaiah 37:1).  Some would argue that prayer is not a course of action.  Actually, though, prayer is the best course of action until God clarifies what His leader should do.  Standing in the temple, Hezekiah prayed to the Lord.  He also sent other leaders, in mourning, to the prophet of God, Isaiah.  Other kings sought advice from false prophets and paid the price (1 Kings 22:5-40), but Hezekiah knew the Lord’s faithful servants.

Sometimes the hardest thing about praying is to know when you have an answer, and to do whatever God commands, even when it doesn’t seem to make sense.  Isaiah told Hezekiah through his messengers to wait for the Lord’s deliverance.  With all of the hopes, dreams and fears of his people on his shoulders, Hezekiah did the hard thing and waited.  In Isaiah 37:36, God provided miraculous deliverance.

A different time in his life, Hezekiah faced another crisis, and this one more personal.  He developed a boil, an abscess, which was growing rapidly and probably spreading bacteria into his blood.  Hezekiah would soon have died (Isaiah 38:1, 21).  After a lifetime of faithfulness, he knew what to do…petition his Lord.  Hezekiah did so and the Lord had Isaiah treat him, healing the infection.  Any Christian can see that Hezekiah made the right choice in this crisis, just as he had done a few years before.  As a doctor, I know that certain fruits and other foods grow mold that produces antibiotics such as penicillin.  Perhaps the healing of Hezekiah, something Isaiah and his contemporaries would have considered a miracle, we would consider commonplace.

Towards the end of his life Hezekiah encountered another crisis, and this time it was one that he did not even recognize as a crisis.  Babylon was a rising power in the Middle East and sent a diplomatic mission to Judah.   They may have been seeking allies for a revolt against Assyria or looking for targets for their own armies.  Regardless, Hezekiah foolishly showed them everything, from his treasures to his defenses.  Isaiah prophesied that though Hezekiah would have peace in his day, every treasure would soon belong to the Babylonians.

Hezekiah was a fine, godly leader.  He led well in crisis, and God blessed him for it.  Hezekiah had a solid relationship with the Lord long before crisis struck and was faithful in the small issues of day to day life.  In the words of the Psalmist, he hid the word of God in his heart, finding the wisdom that the Lord places there.  Finally, he sought good counsel from the right people and followed the counsel he received.  With few exceptions, modern day leaders would do well to emulate his performance when facing crises.

David, an Example of Growth and Development in Leadership

Of all the leaders in ancient Israel, the greatest are Moses, whom we have already discussed, and David, who is the subject of this article.  David’s father was Jesse, the son of Obed and descendant of Boaz, a wealthy landowner.  His ancestral lineage was through the line of Judah, a ruler among his people.  David was Jesse’s youngest son, a shepherd boy, without the obvious potential of his older brothers.  Nonetheless, David had a heart after God, and that enabled him to become the greatest king of Israel.

Israel had been ruled by judges for hundreds of years since conquering the Promised Land.  Eventually, the people grew tired of local government and wanted a king to rule over them.  Their choice was Saul, a man of the central tribe of Benjamin who was remarkable primarily for his good looks and his height (1 Samuel 9:2).  The story of his rise to power in 1st Samuel is somewhat bizarre, but God gave him every chance to succeed.  Unfortunately he had major flaws as a king and the Lord rejected him (1 Samuel 15:22-28).  God sent Samuel to anoint a new king of His own choosing, sent him to Bethlehem to the house of Jesse, and here David, the unlikely leader, entered the stage.

David was anointed as a youth, probably in his early or mid teens, and provides a good example of a man who grows into leadership.  As mentioned before, his first and most important qualification is that he loved and served the Lord with all his heart.  Second, in a culture and era when battle was constant, David had developed excellent martial skills while defending the sheep against predators.  These two facts were the most important in his life, and this God-given preparation served him well in the decades to come.  Musically inclined, David was given the opportunity to play the harp for Saul, thus receiving an open door into circles of power (1 Samuel 16:18-23).  While in Saul’s service, David befriended Jonathan, Saul’s eldest son and a good and valiant man.  This friendship saved David’s life more than once and taught him much about leadership and valor.

The Israelites mortal enemy to the west, the Philistines, challenged Israel to a one on one battle of domination.  No one in the Israelite army dared fight their champion but David, the unarmored teenage shepherd boy with a determination to protect God’s glory stepped forward to fight.  The battle seemed so unequal as to be hopeless, and would have been had David not had, in addition to a love for his Lord, outstanding fighting skills.  David acted boldly in his area of strength and God gave him a great victory.

David’s love for the Lord had given him direction in his life, and his skills of music and combat had opened the first doors.  He had not, however, learned how to lead men.  Saul provided this opportunity by giving David a command in his army (1 Samuel 18:5).   He learned quickly, gaining military victory and, in part because of his accessibility to the people, earned their respect and love (1 Samuel 18:13).  Later in life, David would nearly be overthrown because his rebellious son, Absalom, did the same (2 Samuel 15:2-6).

David and Saul had a falling out and David lost his honored position, becoming a hunted (and in some places hated) man and the leader of a band of rapscallions (1 Samuel 22:2).  Nonetheless, he learned how to lead even this group and eventually they became his most loyal of followers, even increasing in number (1 Samuel 23:13).  David also learned to discern good from bad advice.

In his early twenties, David now had the key strengths that would enable him to attain great things in Israel, military prowess, musical skill, and the ability to lead men.   When he was 30, Saul and Jonathan were killed in a catastrophic battle against the Philistines.  David became king of his own tribe, that of Judah, while the other tribes remained with the house of Saul.  Again we see God developing David step by step, starting his reign over a group of people likely to support him wholeheartedly, his tribal kinsmen.  Civil war between David and the house of Judah and Ish-bosheth and the house of Saul ensued, and David’s forces, though outnumbered, gradually prevailed.

Throughout his early life, David showed remarkable respect, one can almost say chivalry, for his enemies.  Though having many opportunities to kill Saul, his persecutor, David never did.  When Saul finally died, David did not rejoice but mourned at this great calamity in Israel.  When the opposing general, Abner, was assassinated and when the opposing king, Ish-bosheth, was murdered, David was sad and angry.  In all three cases he executed the murderers, although belatedly in the case of Joab, Abner’s murderer.  David also reached out to his enemies, showing grace to the tribes that opposed his kingship after he defeated Saul’s house (2 Samuel 5:3).

After attaining the highest post in Israel, he led successful military campaigns, expanding the borders and bringing all of the surrounding nations under his influence.   David was at his pinnacle of power.  Sometimes, however, accomplishing one’s greatest desires can be the worst thing to happen to a man.  The later part of David’s life was, unfortunately, not as virtuous as the first.   In his early 50s he caught himself in a scandal of adultery and murder and never seemed to regain the power, faithfulness and decision of his younger years.  David grew into greatness as a leader but may have stopped growing in his last decades.

To live is to grow, and to stop growing is to die.  This is the rule in the natural universe and is the rule in the spiritual realms.  So many people complete their education, start their career in their chosen field, and never pick up another book.  The demands of life, work, family and church can seem overwhelming but every child of God must designate time to keep growing in Him and in the task He has called us to do.  Simultaneously, some people spend so much time training that they spend little actually doing.  The child of God must avoid that as well.  Fundamentally, we must keep our attentions focused on the Lord so that we are able to hear Him and willing to do what He calls us to do.

A heart after God was David’s secret for success.  Despite the difficulties of his youth and the failures of his maturity, David kept loving God, glorifying Him and trying to know Him better.  This enabled him to serve his Creator fully and will do the same for us.

Moses, an Example of Administrative Leadership and People Management

Moses is the single most famous leader in the Old Testament and is respected by Jews, Christians and Muslims alike.   He was born a Hebrew slave, adopted by an Egyptian princess, raised as a prince of Egypt, exiled at age 40 after killing an Egyptian who beat a Hebrew slave.  Fleeing to the tribe of Midian in the Sinai desert, Moses married, started a family, and became a shepherd, an occupation loathsome to the Egyptians, especially a prince.  He was as low as a former prince of Egypt could go.

At age 80, when Moses probably felt that his life was nearly over, God met Moses on the slope of Mt. Sinai.  God told Moses to return to Egypt and lead the Israelites, God’s chosen people, out of slavery to the Egyptians.  The rest of Moses life was a tremendous example of faithfulness to the commands of God and skill in building a nation as he led His people into their Promised Land.

Moses as the Administrative Leader

Moses was a blessed man.  As a prince in Egypt he would have learned much about leading people and administering the empire.  Even though as a Hebrew he could not have become Pharaoh, Moses would have been destined for high office in Egypt, perhaps a regional chief or foreign minister.  He would have learned how to drive a chariot, how to supply, march and lead an army, and the political skills necessary to succeed on the world’s stage.   Moses would have learned how to retain and increase power, and he was probably proud of his background and accomplishments.  Much was expected of Moses, and in his youth, Moses learned to expect much from himself.

In Exodus 18, Moses and the Israelites have experienced amazing things.  The plagues devastated Egypt, the Israelites looted the Egyptians and escaped, Pharaoh’s army was wiped out in the Red Sea, and God miraculously brought manna, meat and water to sustain the people.  A large raiding party of Amalekites even attacked the camp and God gave the Hebrews a great victory.  Between these events, Moses was exhausting himself judging the people of Israel.  When Moses’ father in law, Jethro, brought Zipporah, Moses’ wife, and his two sons to join Moses after the Exodus, he saw Moses judging Israel from sunrise to sunset.  Realizing that this was unsustainable, Jethro advised him to organize the people into groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens, and appoint leaders over the groups to judge each.  Only the most difficult cases would go to Moses.  Moses, to his credit, listened to Jethro and did as he suggested. He didn’t select just anyone, but men who possessed godly wisdom, honored the truth, and were free of covetousness.  Moses assigned them to positions of leadership by their ability.  As a result of delegating the lesser cases to good men, justice was done and Moses was able to continue his leadership role among the Israelites.

Moses was a good example of administrative leadership in other ways.  He built memorials and told stories to remind the people of the great things that God had done for them.  Moses spent significant time communicating God’s commands and vision to and for the people.   He did not have to face outdated procedures and policies but instead developed effective ones.  He did not have to deal with an organization that was falling apart but rather built a nation from the ground up.

Moses as a Manager of People

Politics was a major portion of Moses’ training and as a prince in Egypt he undoubtedly had long experience in uniting disparate opinions and keeping everyone happy.   As a shepherd, he had spent thousands of hours caring for his sheep, and certainly realized the striking resemblance between people and sheep (cf. Psalm 23).  These skills, focused and directed by a strong relationship with God, made Moses a model leader of people.

Moses taught conflict resolution in many ways.  He was first able to avoid becoming defensive during the conflict.  The quickest way to fail to solve anything is to take conflicts personally.  In Exodus 16, the people were grumbling about meat.  Moses, a man who didn’t think much about himself, reminded them that they were grumbling against God because He was the real Deliverer.  The Lord reminded him again or this truth in Deuteronomy 20:1-4.

Delegating decisions to others helped Moses excuse himself from conflicts that he did not need to be involved in, but the biggest and most important conflicts were for him to handle.  He was a man of great character, having spent many a long night with his sheep studying at the feet of God.  As a result, he was less concerned with assets, accomplishments, relationships with others and his future and more concerned about the honor of God and the well being of His people.  In 2010, our sheer busy-ness prevents us from enjoying some of the sweetest and most powerful times with our Lord.

As noted in the Administrative Leader section, Moses listened to Jethro’s advice and organized the people into self-governing groups.  In Exodus 35, he selected leaders and organized the people and the production processes as Israel created their most important objects, the Tabernacle and its furnishings.  In both instances, Moses’ organized his resources for maximal efficiency.

Men who know the Lord will usually be men of peace and Moses was no exception.  When battle was forced on him, as with the Amalekites in Exodus 17, he was an effective leader.  When there was a choice, however, Moses preferred the peaceful approach (Deut 20:10).

Moses had a long term commitment, first to the Lord and second to His people, Moses’ people, the Hebrews.  Moses was not about to flee, no matter how fierce the conflict got, how dangerous it was or how much it cost him personally.  The Golden Calf incident in Exodus 32 is a classic example.  Moses was utterly dedicated to the mission of God and nothing would stop him.  As a result, he won most of the conflicts he was in.  When Moses fought, he was thorough, and after he fought, Moses and the people celebrated the victory.  Finally, he never compromised with the enemies of the Lord, as the open battles in Exodus 17 and Exodus 32 describe.

One should also note the principles of conflict resolution throughout Moses’ life.  He anticipates the inevitable conflict with the Egyptians and even with his people in Exodus 3.  These conflicts had many sources.  Some were about resources (Hebrew slaves were a great resource to the Egyptians), others ethnic or ideological (YHWH vs. the Egyptian gods and Pharaoh).  Some were personality struggles between Moses and Pharaoh.  The relationship between Moses, Aaron and others included competition for roles and responsibilities (territorial conflicts) and boundaries of each persons’ role (border conflicts).

Amidst these many conflicts, Moses used all three basic approaches, confrontation, collaboration and joint problem solving to address them.  The episodes in Exodus 17, Exodus 32 and Numbers 16 (Korah’s rebellion) were direct confrontations.  The rebellion of the people against Moses after receiving the report of the spies (Numbers 14) was confrontational for the most part, but with the faithful Joshua and Caleb it was almost joint problem solving.  They all wanted to follow God and tried to get the people to do it.   His direction of Aaron early in the ministry (Exodus 4-7) was more collaborative, but Moses was clearly the leader. His work with the craftsmen making the tabernacle (Exodus 36) was also collaborative and problem solving.

Moses faced conflicts within the people of Israel, within the leadership of Israel and within his own family, involving Aaron and Miriam.  Numbers 12:1 states that Moses married a Cushite woman.  This more likely means that Zipporah was part Cushite than that he took a second wife.  Regardless, their grumbling escalated into a direct attack on his leadership.  Moses immediate response is not mentioned, but usually in such circumstances he did not defend himself directly but took the issue directly to the Lord.  The Lord intervened in a terrifying way, striking Miriam instantly with a deadly, disfiguring disease.  Aaron then, always the weak willed one (cf. Exodus 32) begged for forgiveness.  Moses betrayed not a touch of vengeance, but cried out to God to heal his sister.  After several days, He did so.  Moses’ display of many of the 10 commandments of leadership, including loving, understanding, integrity and kindness, is obvious here.

Moses was a great man of God and exercised effective leadership at a critical point in the history of Israel and of God’s salvation story.  Christian leaders today do well to learn from his example.

Leadership Examples of Abraham, Jacob and Joseph

Abraham

In many ways, Abraham was an entrepreneurial leader. Born in Ur in southeast Mesopotamia in the second millennium BC, Abraham had a wide variety of skills and a strong work ethic. He could have been very successful in Ur. God, however, had other plans. Terah, Abram’s father, took his entire family, including Abram and his wife, hundreds of miles northwest to Haran in upper Mesopotamia (Genesis 11:31). After Terah’s death, God called the 75 year old Abram to take his entire household, scores of people and many possessions, to Canaan, 700 miles to the southwest. Genesis 12-24 recounts the rest of Abraham’s life, and in these chapters we see a wealthy rancher, a diplomat, a military leader, and a faithful servant of God.

Strengths

Jehovah’s plan was to bring a great people out of Abraham that would bless the whole world. He intended to put these people in Canaan, the most fruitful part of the great land bridge between Europe, Asia, and Africa, and build them into a “kingdom of priests” to shine God’s light to all of His creation.

Abraham’s entrepreneurial style of leadership served him well during a time of great transition in his life and in the work of God. He was an innovator, literally blazing new trails through the desert, going where his people had not gone before, to serve his Lord. He motivated his household to go from Haran to Canaan, but also impelled them to fight and win a war against kings. One can object that in a patriarchal society in the Ancient Near East, his family and servants had little choice. This is false, as many episodes of desertion and even parricide in history show. Abram saw how things should be, his descendents raised into a mighty nation blessed by God in Canaan, and made it so.

Weaknesses

During more of few nights of hardship, Abram might have asked himself “Is my vision accurate? Did I really hear the voice of God telling me to go to Canaan?” Certainly if he was a 21st century American, he would have. The entrepreneur cannot succeed without a sound vision, so Christian leaders today must be sure that we share the vision of God. Abram did not take any unnecessary risks, but the whole venture was risky. Thieves and enemies abounded and travel was hard. Likewise, many entrepreneurs today have difficulty evaluating risks and motivating others to face them. Having moved as an adult from Ur to Haran, he had the skills to succeed. Many would-be entrepreneurs do not.

Opportunities

Entrepreneurial leaders have some of the greatest opportunities of all…they can dream a dream and make it come true. Abraham set forces in motion, fathering the people of God, which shape the world today, 4000 years later. Entrepreneurs such as Thomas Edison and the Wright brothers have changed the way we live. Others like William Carey and Bill Bright changed the way we think of ministry. The opportunities available to an entrepreneur are limited mostly by his imagination.

Threats

It is easy to be a dreamer and not a doer. It is easy to be dismissed as a crackpot, as Edison and the Wrights were, and fall away in discouragement. It is easy for others to lose hope and depart.

Jacob

The grandson of Abraham, Jacob can be thought of as a pragmatic leader. He did not blaze trails, lead armies or found a nation like his grandfather did. Instead, aside from a two decade sojourn in Haran with Laban, he lived most of his life as a farmer and rancher in the land of Canaan. Nonetheless, Jacob used his situation to accomplish his goals, for good and for bad. Genesis 25-35, 46-50 describes his life.

Strengths

Entrepreneurial leaders are best in times of great transition, while pragmatic ones are best in day to day operations. For every visionary, a society needs many pragmatists to get the day to day jobs done. Pragmatic leaders are good at solving problems, and so they are commonly used to turn around organizations or ministries which are failing. Jacob saw problems, Esau had Isaac’s blessing and the birthright of the firstborn, and he wanted them. So Jacob and his mother Rebecca figured a way to swindle Esau out of both. Not morally good, but certainly pragmatic. Pragmatic leaders are good at encouraging and motivating. They are organized enough to make sure that their followers get their work done.

Weaknesses

God had promised that Jacob would get the birthright and blessing from Esau, and Jacob, pragmatically figuring that the ends justified the means, robbed Esau of it. This “ends justify the means” mentality is a major weakness of pragmatic leadership. Such leaders tend to manipulate others, step on peoples’ feelings, and compromise their values to get ahead. They may sacrifice quality for completion. Together, these can cause them to lose followers. These leaders may appreciate existing policies and procedures as a way to get things done, or they may feel boxed in by them. Either way, they may jettison policies and procedures which would be useful, or use policies and procedures which should be jettisoned.

Opportunities

There is great need for effective, moral pragmatic leaders in the world. Entrepreneurs often are no good at maintaining the organizations they set up, and the pragmatists are the perfect ones to do it. Less idealistic than the “idea men”, pragmatic leaders can make healthy compromises and can fix some problems very quickly. In our complex, modern world, such leaders keep the trucks rolling, the crops growing, and the gospel spreading. The opportunities are truly endless.

Threats

The tendency to compromise, to believe that the ends justify the means, and to misuse others have already been discussed. If others feel misused, whether or not they actually have been, they are likely to rebel, either actively or passively against the leader. Either way, it will be hard to get the job done or even remain on as a leader. Further, pragmatic leaders can be discouraged after years of handling emergencies sometimes and dealing with the same day to day routine at others. Over a 40 year career, many of the same problems will arise again and again. Others may not appreciate his work. Lacking the thrill of victory (or the agony of defeat) experienced by the entrepreneur, the pragmatist can become dull and sometimes even wonder if all his effort is worth it.

Joseph

Joseph was the great-grandson of Abraham and favored son of Jacob. Disliked by his brothers, he was sold as a slave and unjustly thrown in prison by his master. Eventually by his faithfulness to the Lord he was raised to the rank of Prime Minister of Ancient Egypt, second only to the Pharaoh himself in power in the land. Joseph’s skills were instrumental in investing wisely during Egypt’s years of bumper crop, and then saving Egypt and the surrounding nations from starvation during the terrible famine that followed. Joseph led through problem solving and long range planning. Genesis 37-45 tells his story.

Strengths

Decision making leaders are adept at boiling difficult problems down to their most basic factors, communicating these factors to enhance understanding, and devising solutions. They are also skilled at delegating smaller problems to those at the level who can solve them the best. These leaders are often skilled administrators and are willing to make tough choices. Part of these administrative skills involve being diplomatic, able to persuade others in a way that is pleasing to the other person. Joseph the slave and prisoner standing before the “god-king” of Egypt needed every diplomatic skill he possessed. Because the best decisions are made in the right context, decision making leaders also tend to do well at long range planning. By understanding the strategic (big picture and long term) situation rather than only the tactical (small picture, short term) one, they are better able to lead any organization where it needs to go.

Weaknesses

No one makes perfect decisions, and decision making and strategic leaders often take blame for choices that turn out bad. Such leaders are sometimes forced to make decisions or devise plans with inadequate information and insufficient time. Strategic leaders can learn to rely on their own abilities rather than on God’s leading. Even when they do follow the Lord faithfully, they can be seen by others as less than spiritual because of their methods or because others don’t believe in planning at all. When a plan is in motion, they may not want to change, even when a change is in order.

Opportunities

God’s plans are strategic, extending over all mankind, throughout the universe, and lasting for eternity. The greatest advances are made by those who know where they are going, in the short term and in the long. The starvation of Egypt could not have been averted with a last minute, off the cuff choice. By building slowly and taking the right steps along the way, fortunes are made, businesses are built, and churches thrive. The redwood grows slowly and deliberately but gains great strength and height. It survives for centuries. Grass, even bamboo, grows quickly but soon it withers.

Threats

Any difficult decision will have impassioned stakeholders on all sides of the issue, and someone will be upset by any choice. Alienating followers can cause the leader to lose support and ultimately endanger his position as a leader. Especially in our era of “the customer (or shareholder or other stakeholder) is always right”, leaders anger their followers at their own professional peril. All leaders have blind spots and some decision making/planning leaders may be tempted to not take the good counsel of others. Failing to make others stakeholders in the decision or long range plan can further alienate them and raise opponents.

Conclusion

Abraham, Jacob and Joseph are good examples of leadership in the Bible. They served the Lord faithfully and greatly impacted their world, and ours, as a result. By studying them, we can discover things to do, and not to do, in our God-given roles.