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3. Leadership and Nation-building as portrayed in the book of Judges

Leadership, Integrity and Nation building.

– by Caesar Drasi Bua

A. Key lessons from the book of Judges

Before we discuss leadership and people’s roles in nation-building, we would like to discuss some key factors that made Israel fail to build and establish their nation in the land God promised to them. Our key verse is, “In those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit”, Judges 17:6, 18:1.

This statement is one of the key texts in the study of Judges. It drives us to dig deeper and understand the surrounding circumstances that led to Israel having no king in those days. To get into that exploration, first we need to ask the question, why Israel had no king? Here we shall find out that Israel had a king but not a human king like the other nations. Why, because:

1) God was Israel’s King

The historical narrative of Israel tells us that, before Israel became a nation or a sovereign state, it was a family. God called a couple – a man by name Abram and his wife Sarai. God told them to leave their parents’ families and community to go to a new land, which He (God) would give to them. When Abram accepted the call of God, his name was changed to Abraham, which means ‘father of many nations’. That of his wife Sarai became Sarah, meaning ‘mother of many nations’, Genesis 17. Indeed, God fulfilled His promise to Abraham, in that by the time his grandson Jacob went to Egypt due to famine, the number of his family[1] had reached to seventy people, Genesis 46:27.

While in Egypt the descendants of Jacob increased greatly until the Egyptian king was threatened. Despite his policy that all male children of the Israelites be killed, the number of Israelite men reached six hundred thousand (600,000) by the time they came out of Egypt under the leadership of Moses, Exodus 12:37. And that was only the men of military age. Women and children were not included in that number. Note that, up to this time, Israel was not a nation but a community[2] of God’s people, Exodus 16:1.

Moses died before reaching the Promised Land. After his death, God called Joshua to replace him. Joshua then led the community of Israel across the river Jordan. Under Joshua’s leadership, the number of Israel’s men at the age of fighting reached six hundred and one thousand, seven hundred and thirty (601,730), Numbers 26:4,51. Those men with their families crossed on the other side of river Jordan. Joshua’s task as a leader was to subdue the land of Canaan, which was then inhabited by other nations. He was to fight, capture, settle and occupy every land of all these nations because they were being given by God to Israel. All along, God was the King over Abraham’s family growing into Israel’s community. Joshua operated under God’s Kingship.

Both Moses and Joshua were servants of God. “After the death of Moses the servant of the LORD. The LORD said to Joshua son of Nun, Moses’ aide: “Moses my servant is dead. Now, then you and all these people get ready to cross the River Jordan into the land I am about to give them – to the Israelites”, Joshua 1:1-2. From here Joshua took over the leadership and crossed the River Jordan and did his work faithfully until his death. Then things changed for the worse.

2) The act of connectivity

“After the whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what He had done for Israel. Then the Israelites did evil in the eyes of the LORD and served Baals”, Judges 2:10-11.

One great failure of Israel’s older generation was forgetting to teach and instruct their younger generation about God, His deeds and His commandments. Though God had earlier told the parents and elders again and again to teach His ways to their children: “These commandments that I give you today … Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up”, Deuteronomy 6:4-9. Sadly, the parents and their elders failed in their God-given responsibility. So the children grew up without the true knowledge of God. Hence, they became wicked and rebellious, worshipping idols, because there was no connectivity with the God-fearing foundation that had gone before. In our days, we see this dangerously happen in our own homes. Many parents do not invest time teaching their children things of God. Even though, in our church denominations parents take oaths during children’s baptisms and dedications that they will teach their children about God and His commandments. But, so often after water baptism and baby dedication parents forget about their own vows before God. They make no time to sit down with their children to do the work they promised God and the church to do. This makes new generations grow with little or no knowledge of God. There is ‘dis-connectivity’ between God, leaders and people.

3) Attitude of rebellion

The third thing we see in the book of Judges that led to this failure of nation-building is the attitude of rebellion. Earlier, God gave a clear job description to Joshua the leader of the Israelite community. God’s will for the Israelites was for them to dislodge all the people who inhabited the land of Canaan at that time. Joshua, Moses’ successor, was to lead Israel in that commission. On his part as an individual leader, Joshua conquered some lands and settled some of Israel’s tribes in them. Before he died he appointed Caleb with the same task to lead Israel’s community. After his death, several tribes of Israel intentionally failed to obey the instruction Joshua left with them from God. They did not conquer the lands or chase away the tribes who were already there. Instead, they settled among the people who should have been dislodged. Henceforth, those people influenced Israel’s community with ideas of pagan worship, which God considered an act of disobedience and rebellion, Judges 1:27-35; 2:1-5.

Rebellion, also known as insurrection, is an act of open resistance to an established authority. It originates from the mind-set or attitude of the rebellious person. Such an individual usually thinks or says ‘I can do it on my own way’. ‘I don’t need someone else to instruct me’. A rebellious attitude is aggressive and arrogant towards God and His established standards. God does not tolerate rebellion or disobedience. He decisively deals with a rebellious attitude. In Judges 2, when the other tribes refused to chase out those nations settled in the land God gave Israel, God refused to help the people of those tribes. He said, “… you have disobeyed me … Now therefore I tell you that I will not drive them (the original populations) out before you, they will be thorns in your sides and their gods a snare to you”, Judges 2:2-3 (brackets mine).

True to His own word God refused to help the Israelites in chasing away the native nations. Instead He used those nations to punish Israel whenever they sinned. There are so many occasions recorded where God killed rebellious people with the earth opening to swallow the people. He sent snakes among the Israelites and the snakes bit several people who died of their snake bites, Numbers 16:1-32; 21:6; 26:10. This is reality, not just a story of the things that happened in the past to the generations before us. No! It is even happening today to nations, communities, families and individuals. In the book of Prophet Samuel, God punished King Saul because he refused to obey Him. God told Samuel to tell King Saul, “You have rejected the word of the LORD and the LORD has rejected you as King over Israel”, 1Samuel 15:26. It is dangerous to disobey God and rebel against Him. When we do that He punishes us with terrible diseases and even civil wars. Does this remind you of today? The book of Judges may be old, but it is still very relevant.

B. Leadership

1. Understanding leadership

Leadership is an old and complex concept to understand and define. It does not have one single definition. There are hundreds of definitions in books on leadership but none of them is absolutely similar to another unless it is a quote. Every author or leadership guru gives his own definition as he understands the term leadership. As such I am going to state here that, leadership is not a position and a title in a particular set hierarchy nor a place in an organisational or administrative structure. Rather, leadership is a process, commitment, an attitude to life of an individual leader. Now, to grasp ideas on the difficulties of understanding leadership, I wish to provide some reasons:

a) Leadership exists at different levels

To understand this, you think about an organisation that has majorly three levels: top, middle and low. People at the top who guide the others are called leaders; the middle people likewise have leaders and then the lower level of the hierarchy also have people who are called leaders of that lower level. So, at every level there is a leadership. This for sure sets a dilemma in a person’s mind whenever he wants to define the term “leadership”. Why, because in the definition to which level do you connect or refer? In other words which level of leadership do you define?

b) Leadership exists at different ages

This is like the previous point. It simply states that when you consider different ages of social groups in society, you will discover that in every age group there is a leader or leadership. For example, when children gather together to play, you will find that one of them is a leader. In same manner if aged people sit under a shade whether in rural area, town or city, in each group you will find one person is a leader for the group. So, when we define leadership; for which age group are we defining? Is it that of the old people or the youth and the children?

Leadership is ambiguous

When you think about the word ‘leadership’ what comes in to your mind? To who or what are you referring? Is it to the activity of the leader or to the person? You need to know whether your definition describes a person, or refers to the functions or activity of the leader.

2. Understanding the nature of leadership

The current understanding of leadership is that it is a long-term relationship or partnership between the leader and followers. The leader and the followers are connected in such a way that the power between them is approximately balanced. It is vital to understand here that the partnership is the opposite to that which exists between parents and children. In parents/children partnerships, the parents have the responsibility of their children and the children are recipients of their parent’s services. It is not so with the nature of leadership we are discussing here. We are saying that the partnership between leadership and followers occurs only when authority for control shifts from the leader to the followers because in this type of partnership authoritarian leadership is not entertained. It is a far-off thought. Good leadership promotes shared decision making processes.[3] Another vital thing to consider in this is that leadership effectively takes place when followers consciously make decisions on the issues. This means that leaders can never make their own views normative for others. Moreover, they need to recall that even the service of others can become dedicated manipulation. Rather, contemporary leaders need personal ethics that include constant self-scrutiny and keeping the focus on the common task. This begins with making a difference in others through respect, valuation of their dignity and celebrating their successes. A leader needs to have a relentless pursuit for the organisation (or the nation’s) mission. He must foster self-leadership in his followers as he balances a sense of urgency with patience.[4]

C. Nation-building requirements

1) The fear of God

“The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom and the knowledge of the Holy One is understanding”, Proverbs 9:10.

Earlier we discussed that the Israelites failed to overcome their enemies to settle in the land God promised for them because they rebelled against God. That is, they rejected God as their King. God did not appoint anybody to lead them since their relationship with God was not good, which also means there was no fear of God in their hearts. To fear God is to revere and honour Him in everything about your daily life. In human history, there was a man by the name of Job. The Bible says, Job had the fear of God, and continues “was blameless, upright and shunned evil”, Job 1:1. A leader who fears God will refrain from evil and exclusively embrace uprightness in his motives, his attitudes, his words and his actions. Yet the question comes, why is it important for a leader to have the fear of God? The leader is to have the fear of God because:

a) He is God’s servant, Roman 13:4

Ultimately, the concept of servanthood is far-fetched in our minds and in practice by this generation. We think being a servant is being low in position and doing mostly low works such as sweeping, serving tea in the offices and being a messenger. Yet in Romans 13:4, Apostle Paul refers to every authority God institutes as ‘servants’. The leaders in these authorities are servants in the sense that God is the owner of the estates for which the leaders are responsible. As the Psalmist says, “The earth is the LORD’s, and everything in it, the world and all who live in it …”, Psalm 24:1. “The highest heavens belong to the LORD but the earth he has given to the human race …”, Psalm 115:16. These two scriptural texts, and many others, affirm that God is the creator and owner of the universe. But because of His good will He assigned the earth to man to manage, Genesis 1:28.

According to the Apostle Paul, God dispensed to the leaders’ responsibilities in their nations to do “good” works. He emphasised that existing authorities are God’s servants to do good to the people they lead. Now to do “good” in this context is a requirement not an option and it is not simply relative to the performance of others. It is imperative to the leader and for his assignment. Note that to do “good” is an absolute moral purity as portrayed in the eyes of God. God’s expectation from His servants is life that is untouched/detached from sin but dedicated to Him and His word. Job was such a leader in his very early nation and generation. He feared God, in that he was blameless, upright and shunned evil. Even though trials came to him and all his resources were destroyed in a single day, Job never forsook his integrity. He remained focused on his attitude towards God and His commandments. All political leaders who hold authority in the nations today are expected to administer justice in those countries. As God showed His ways to the people of Israel in days’ gone by, so He is doing today. His requirement is “To act justly and love mercy and to walk humbly with your God”, Micah 6:8.

When leaders fear God, the country experiences peace, unity and prosperity, for God will bless the country through the leadership. The key point here is that, it is righteousness that exalts a nation. Only nations whose leaders fear God are promised prosperity, peace and unity, Proverbs 14:34. If any leader does not fear God or does not serve God’s people with justice, mercy and love, God has this to say: “Among my people are wicked men who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch men…their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek…Their evil deeds have not limit; they do not plead the case of the fatherless to win it, they do not defend the rights of the poor…The Prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority and my people love it this way…From the least to the greatest all are greedy for gain; Prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit…They dress the wounds of my people as though it were not serious. Peace, peace they say when there is no peace…they have no shame at all”, Jeremiah 5:26-31; 6:13-15.

b) He is appointed by God, Romans 13:1-2

Every leadership, regardless of who they are and their different leadership positions, is instituted by God. “The authorities that exist have been established by God … whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted and those who do so will bring judgement on themselves”. God’s purpose is that there may be order and administration in every nation. His main intentions for authorities are that they may observe order and provide services to the populace under their leadership. As they do so they equally combat lawlessness in the society.

In Old Testament times God appointed a man, by name Nehemiah, governor in Jerusalem during the reign of King Artaxerxes of the Medo-Persian Empire. In later life he did a lot of reforms in Israel because he was a God-fearing man. After hearing that his home city, Jerusalem, was demolished and the gates were burnt by fire, Nehemiah fasted, confessed the sins of his people to God asking that God would forgive them. Thereafter, he journeyed to Jerusalem, rebuilt the walls that were broken down and led other repair work in the city. When the construction work was over, Nehemiah appointed leaders and made a census of the people. So, it is important for a leader to know God personally and walk in God’s ways during the course of his life and leadership.

2) A heart for the nation

A true story was told of two South Sudanese brothers. The younger brother asked his elder brother who was working with the government in those days when the country was still one, ‘how was the government?’. His elder brother answered that the government was like a cow that has a lot of milk. Everybody wanted to milk that cow. Whenever the cow entered in a person’s fence, the person closed the door and milked the cow, taking as much as he wanted. Then the person released the cow to go. The cow went and entered in another person’s fence, and the second person did exactly like the first person. He closed the door of his fence, milked the cow until he was satisfied. And the cow continued to go after it was released by the second person, to the third, the fourth, and so on. According to that elder brother, this told the state of affairs in the government of the then united Sudan!

A true heart for the country encompasses the leader’s own state of mind concerning his country, plus his degree of commitment to national affairs and the quality of his performance in terms of service delivery. Being effective in this is what people call “patriotism”.[5] Patriotism is a culture in the sense that it is learned, developed and nurtured over a period. This culture is measured by being loyal to set national standards. Hence, ‘heart for the nation’ can never remain a wish. If you as the leader do not learn, develop and nurture patriotism it will vanish from your heart and many others. Your leadership becomes a run of the mill leadership, not at all the lifestyle Almighty God wants from you.

People who have heart for their nation:

  • care for the affairs of their country

  • protect and respect all the resources of the country

  • serve all fellow citizens, respecting them and their properties

  • plan for the development of the country

  • respect (or legally amend) its laws.

People who don’t have heart for their country:

  • plunder the government resources

  • cheat other people

  • favour one group or community over another

  • even kill their fellow citizens, (or order such killings and turn a blind eye).

God hates leaders who have no heart for their countries and the people. He warned those leaders in the books of prophets such as Isaiah and Micah. He gave them this message, “Woe to those who make unjust laws; to those who issue oppressive decrees, to deprive the poor of their rights and withhold justice from the oppressed on my people, making widows their prey and robbing the fatherless”, Isaiah 10:1-2. “…Woe to those who plan iniquity, to those who plot evil on their beds! At morning’s light they carry it out because it is in their power to do it. They covet fields and seize them and houses and take them. They defraud a man of his home, a fellowman of his inheritance. Therefore the Lord says, ‘I am planning disaster against this people, from which you cannot save yourselves … a time of calamity”, Micah 2:1-3. As a national or civic leader you must know that the LORD God is against leaders who do not respect their fellow citizens. He is against men and women who take away public funds for personal or family use. To God such leaders are incredulous individuals. So as a leader with a God-given trust you need to have a sincere heart for the nation; then you and the people may enjoy peace, unity and growth.

3) Promote national well-being

The process of promoting a nation’s well-being includes the leader and the citizens as one package. The implication here is that, both leader and citizens work together in building their nation. Governor Nehemiah demonstrated this when he and the people of Israel built the wall of Jerusalem together as a family. For this to happen citizens must collaborate successfully with their leadership and with one another. But for collaboration to happen between the leadership and the followers, the leader needs to exemplify both personal and vocational integrity, in which his main task is to encourage citizens to be free in expressing their opinions. Leaders should value justice for all, the dignity of every individual citizen, services delivery to everyone, in complete trust and loving respect for each other.

I think fragmented society in any nation can never achieve development in any setting; never! Let me illustrate this with the true story of the tower of Babel. The Bible says, “Now the whole world had one language and a common speech. As people moved east-ward, they found a plain in Shinar and settled there. They said to each other, “Come, let us make bricks and bake them thoroughly”. They used bricks instead of stones; and bitumen for mortar. Then they said, “Come, let us build ourselves a city, with a tower that reaches to the heavens, so that we can make name for ourselves otherwise we will be scattered over the face of the whole earth.” But the LORD came down to see the city and the tower that the people were building. The LORD said, “If as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them. Come let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.” So the LORD scattered them from there over all the earth and they stopped building the city”, Genesis 11:1-9.

This narrative provides use with two main facts; which are:

a) There is strength in unity

As the old saying goes, ‘unity is strength’, and it is. The LORD God bore witness that, “If as one people speaking the same language have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them”, verse 6. This statement is absolutely true and very practical. Let us take as an example the impact of national unity on sustainable development in Rwanda. A research done within a sociological framework there showed a "democratic state and the state based on the rule of law, media freedom including the participation of people in national planning resulted in imperative sustainable development”. This was confirmed by 64.4% of the politicians, 72.4% of representatives of the military, journalists, civil and public societies and 63.5% of the ordinary population. The respondents stated that presently Rwanda is slowly becoming a democratic state, with the application of the rule of law and media freedom.

It was also noticed that Rwandan national unity facilitates, promotes and encourages the bilateral collaboration between people, between people and authorities, and between authorities themselves. The involvement and participation of the people in national planning and protection of national developmental projects for future generations has led to sustainable development. Rwandan national unity has improved and positively influenced Rwandan social, economic and political systems in a confirmed way. In addition, there is good governance, security, peace, unity and popular education.[6]

b) Disunity is disgrace

The causes of disunity are misplaced priorities and mistaken enemies. Once, these happen the consequences are terrible on the people. People who were once strong when united, suddenly become weak and fail to achieve their dreams. They hate one another and dissipate their energy in self-centred quarrels. You remember from the history of the tower of Babel, once mankind was confused because their centre of unity – the language – was removed by God, those people never remained one. They became divided and their project died as result of their disunity. God was the author of disunity at Babel, but He is firmly against it in nation-building. So often leaders begin to mistake their colleagues as enemies. Once this begins to happen more energy is spent fighting each other than combatting the causes of wrongs. And most cases, before you realise that you are fighting each other, you will have already destroyed more precious resources, including people, the most precious of all.

4) Observe leadership ethics

Ethics[7] are moral principles or recognised rules of conduct that govern a person’s behaviour in respect to a particular class or human group. They can also be described as desirable, appropriate values and morals used in a given community or society. It is worth noting that each society, community and specialised group have their own ethics or moral principles. Leadership being one of the specialised groups in human society has its own ethical requirements, for example, things like dressing codes for certain groups of leaders. Therefore ethics, in general, deals with the purity of the individual leader and his intentions, while leadership ethics in particular serve as guidelines for analysing “what is good or bad” in a specific scenario.

Correlating ethics with leadership, we find that ethics is all about the leader’s identity and role. Ethical theories on leadership talk about two main things:

a) the actions and behaviour of the leader

b) the personality and character of the leader

It is therefore essential to note that good, positive ethics are essential ingredients to leadership. A leader drives, inspires and influences the followers to achieve a common goal of their nation or organisation by exemplifying an ethical life. For example, the leader is to ensure that everyone is treated with trust, respect and dignity. So, it is an ethical job of the leader to treat his subordinates with respect as each of them has a unique personality. He knows that the ethical environment in his organisation is built and developed by himself, because he has an influential role in the enterprise. Similarly, the leader has an influence in developing the values for everyone else to follow.

An effective and ethically positive leader has the following traits:

a) Dignity and respectfulness

This simply means he respects others and should not merely use his followers as a medium to achieve his personal goals. Instead he should respect peoples’ feelings, decisions and values. This implies listening effectively to them, being compassionate, as well as being liberal in hearing and considering opposing viewpoints. In short, it implies treating followers in a manner that authenticates their combined values and beliefs.

b) Service to others

An ethical leader should place his followers’ interests ahead of his own. He should be humane and act in a manner that is always fruitful for his followers, even if not for himself.

c) Justice

An ethical leader is fair and just. He treats all his followers equally because there is no personal bias in his heart. This is vital because wherever there is a need for some followers to be treated differently, the ground for differential treatment should be fair, clear, and built on morality. If it is not there will likely be trouble.

d) Community building

An ethical leader develops community because he considers his own purposes as well as his followers’ purposes, while making efforts to achieve goals suitable to all of them. He is considerate to the community interests. He does not overlook the followers’ intentions so he works harder for the community goals.

e) Honesty

An ethical and effective leader presents the facts and circumstances 100% truthfully and completely. No matter how critical or harmful the facts may be for himself or his friends he does not misrepresent (or politically spin) anything.

It is essential to note that leadership is all about values, and it is impossible to be a leader if you lack the awareness and concern for your own personal values together with those of the entire people you serve. Leadership has a moral and ethical aspect. These ethics define leadership. Leaders can use the above-mentioned traits as yardsticks for influencing their own behaviour. Followers can use them too when it comes to voting at the next elections.

D. Leadership and integrity

Integrity is the leader’s adherence to moral and ethical principles that shall result in the soundness, wholeness and unimpaired moral character of the leader. Integrity is a state of the leader being undivided, being unified in his moral values. In search of leadership, integrity is consistently rated as one of the most important character traits for a prospective leader, and an existing leader, to be respected. It is so often considered to be the basis upon which all other good leadership traits are built. Integrity is developed through constant practice of moral and ethical principles. No leader is born with integrity. It is learned and practised through willingness and a commitment to the required moral and ethical codes.

The requirement for leadership integrity in our days surpasses all other demands. Sadly however, few leaders give attention to developing their integrity as compared to their commitment to practising politics. The understanding of many leaders is that their integrity is a private affair, not a public concern. This is not so. The public are more interested in their leader’s integrity. Leaders need to know that provision of service to the public with no good lifestyle is an abomination to the public. For example, a leader has affairs with other sexual partners outside their marriage. They misappropriate public funds, smoke and get drunk in public. They insult fellow leaders publicly in the media and lie openly about national issues. Such leaders are moral failures and disqualify themselves from public office.

Recent years have evidenced a series of such shifts. Though it remains a fact that people want to see their leaders are genuine, there seems to be a need to defend every issue that is questioned. As the leader, you have arrived where you are by being yourself. You have striven to make your own life as it is. To have this perspective, two attitudes are required of you:

a) Personal integrity in relation to your vision for life

b) Integrity in relation to primary public values and resources

We have some great leaders in every walk of life. We also have a lot of mediocre personalities who claim to be leading people but morally they fall below the expected character. To fight this antagonism in himself the leader needs to identify some leadership pitfalls in his surroundings, two of which are briefly discussed here:

1) Traditions

In communities and the society we live in, well known ethical and moral standards are often those archaic standards formulated long ago by our forefathers. Some have become impractical in the new generations we live in, simply because they are undefined and self-centred, only pleasing to individual leaders and perhaps their immediate supporters. Leaders in such dysfunctional communities and societies frequently need to strive for the development of their own integrity and that of others too. To do that effectively, they must eliminate some of the old community norms or their efforts to change would not succeed. Those society or community norms will suppress their efforts since they are supporting evil actions of a few past or present leaders. Let us take for example a society where people support theft from public resources, sexual immorality for men and so on. Leaders in such communities cannot practise integrity easily because of the obstacles of traditions. But practise they must, even at great personal effort.

But it is important to know that trust in leaders is born from the combination of their integrity and competence – not competence alone. In many cases leaders count on their academic qualifications, experience and output through service delivery, to gain trust from their followers. Service delivery via well qualified leadership is a great endeavour but it does not equally measure a leader’s moral and ethical quality in earning trust. Therefore it must not be substituted, because lack of trust leads to competition between the leader and followers and eventually it leads to fragmentation of the nation, group or organisation. In such situations the important thing to note is that a leader cannot just pay lip service. He must work out ways to create the environment of trust so his followers can believe him.

2) Handling criticism

Criticism has two sides to it:

  • There is what is termed to be ‘positive’ criticism. By this I mean commendable feedback from people concerning your leadership and services to them.

  • But there is also what is known as ‘negative’ criticism. This is bad comments people give about their leader and his service to them, often not said directly face to face but spread through others.

Negative criticism is the most difficult to handle, (although positive can lead to pride!), simply because many leaders don’t entertain bad comments concerning their personalities and performance. The impression leaders have after they are appointed to posts is that they have become ‘super beings’. Their words are now infallible. Little do they remember that they are still human, hence full of shortcomings.

Many a time the easiest response of leaders, when people criticise them, is either to dismiss the comments or retaliate by punishing those involved. But when a leader punishes a person or community because they criticise him, does he not create more room for more criticisms? In the process of self-defence, the leader does self-destruction to his leadership instead. Henceforth, the best way to handle criticism is to adopt King David’s style of leadership: “As King David approached Bahurim, a man from the same clan as Saul’s family came out from there. His name was Shimei son of Gera and he cursed as he came out. He pelted David and all the king’s officials with stones, though all the troops and the special guard were on David’s right and left. As he cursed, Shimei said, “Get out, get out, you murderer, you scoundrel! The LORD has repaid you for all the blood you shed in the household of Saul, in whose place you have reigned. The LORD has given the kingdom into the hands of your son Absalom. You have come to ruin because you are a murderer!”

“Then Abishai son of Zeruiah said to the king, “Why should this dead dog curse my lord the king? Let me go over and cut off his head.” But the king said, “What does this have to do with you, you sons of Zeruiah? If he is cursing because the LORD said to him, ‘Curse David’. Who can ask, “Why do you do this?””

“David then said to Abishai and all his officials, “My son, my own flesh, is trying to kill me. How much more, then, this Benjamite! Leave him alone; let him curse, for the LORD has told him to do it. It may be that the LORD will look upon my misery and restore me to His covenant blessing instead of his curse today”, 2 Samuel 16:5-12.

Leaders who know their standing and character do not panic at criticism from either their followers or fellow leaders. Negative criticism instead serves as fuel for them to go ahead with their serving and gain even more trust from the watching people. Nobody defeats negative with negative, rather negative is overcome with positive as King David did here.

Discussion guide

Using this chapter and Scriptures quoted

1. “God was Israel’s king”. Comparing Judges 17:6; 18:1 and 1 Samuel 8:1-9, why did Israel want “a king”? What did their request show (a) about themselves? (b) about God? What are any parallels for us today?

2. “Israel’s older generation was forgetting to teach … their younger generation about God”. List some of the values in knowing the national history, from Deuteronomy 6:4-25. Do these values apply to Sudan/South Sudan today.

3. “Rebellion … is an act of open resistance to an established authority”. Thinking about Judges 2:1-7, what are ways we rebel against God today? Driving enemies out of our land, as Joshua was told to do, is surely not an option for us today? So what is?

4. “Leadership is a process, commitment, an attitude to life of an individual leader”. True/false? Why? Romans 12:1-21.

5. “Nation-building requires … the fear of God”. Why? How? For who? Be as practical as you can. Proverbs 1:7; 1:28-29; 2:1-6; 3:5-7; 8:13-16; 9:10; 10:27; 14:2; 14:16; 14:26-27; 15:16; 15:33; 16:6; 19:23; 22:4; 23:17; 24:21-22; 29:25; 31:30.

6. “If the leader does not nurture patriotism … it will vanish”. Of the nine positives and negatives suggested by Rev. Caesar, which are the best and worst? Why? Micah 2:1-3.

7. “Handling criticism” is a very tricky subject. Why should a leader be open to criticism? Share positive and negative experiences you have seen or heard. James 3:9-10.

[1] Family: “A group consisting of parents and children; or all the people who are related to you, including people now dead”. Macmillan School Dictionary (Oxford) 2004. [2] Community: “People living in (or belonging to) a small area; people in a larger society who are the same in some way”. Macmillan School Dictionary (Oxford) 2004. [3] Andrew J. Dubrin Principles of Leadership (South Western: Nashville, TN.) 2010, p.4. [4] Leonard Doohan Spiritual Leadership the Quest for Integrity (Paulist Press: New York) 2007, p.31-32. [5] Patriotism: “Feeling a lot of love, respect and duty towards your country”, Macmillan School Dictionary (Oxford) 2004. [6] Justin Rutayisire Enviromental Science, University of Kwazulu-Natal, 2002, . [7] Ethics: “a set of principles that people use to decide what is right and wrong”; “a general principle or belief that affects the way people behave”. Macmillan School Dictionary (Oxford) 2004.


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