Friday, August 5, 2011
Delegation (5) - Exodus series (5)
Number 5. Effective leaders accept ultimate responsibility. Jethro didn't tell Moses to delegate those judgeships and responsibilities so that he could go fishing for the next 40 years. Jethro is saying to him, you still need to be available so they can bring the hard cases to you.
A good leader struggles with a balance between trust and accountability. How much do you hold and how much do you let go?
Harry Truman had a plaque that read, “The Buck Stops Here.” It’s important that a leader accepts responsibility for what happens under him. He accepts the blame as well as sharing in the credit.
Jesus did this well. He took 12 men who were unlikely leaders, but He could see something in each one of them. He trained them and then he released them to work. He set up a system of accountability.
Perhaps the most obvious leadership lesson in the Bible is the one Moses learns from his father-in-law Jethro. It begins, as with many of our lessons, by observations on how difficult our task as leaders seems to be. Jethro watches as Moses fulfills his responsibility to bring justice as cases are brought before him as leader.
Why did Moses do this all by himself? Tradition. Isn't this how we all get sucked into it? But, acting as judge was a common role that kings performed in many ancient Near Eastern cultures. This is the same pattern that can be seen in the reigns of David (2 Samuel 15:2) and Solomon (1 Kings 3:16-28). Allowing access to the top ruler was a wonderful tradition. But in an unorganized government, it was consuming and draining.
Let's look at the qualifications in verse 21.
• God-fearing, that is, those who revere God.
• Honest, trustworthy, who not only refuse bribes, but hate the very idea.
• Accountable. They share the task with Moses, rather than displacing him. Moses remains the ultimate judge in the system.
Learning to Delegate
It's not uncommon for leaders to develop a Messiah-complex and think that we are indispensable. It feels good to the ego to be needed! Such leaders feel they must do everything and make all the decisions.
To his credit, Moses didn't push back against the suggestions made by Jethro by saying something like, "What makes you think you know anything? You've never had to lead more than a tribe, let alone a nation! Who do you think you are?"
Rather, Moses humbled himself and was able to learn -- even from his father-in-law.
The role of leaders is not to do all the work all by themselves, but to teach, train, and equip others to do the work.
There is a discussion about division of labors in the New Testament. "The gifts he gave were that some would be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ…." (Ephesians 4:11-12, NRSV). You see, not any one person is to do all of these things. Some of us may have been blessed with
more gifts or talents, but no one has them all.
It is important, however, in observing this lesson in delegation, to take note that Moses doesn't abdicate his role as leader, nor does he give up his overall authority. He handles the hard cases.
Later, when the tabernacle is being built, Moses delegates the day-to-day construction and direction of craftsmen to Bazalel and Oholiab (Exodus 31:1-6), but Moses is the one who received the vision on the mountain. He is responsible to see that everything is done "exactly like the pattern" that God has shown him (Exodus 25:9, 40). At the end of construction he inspects the work to make sure they followed the instructions that he had received and passed on to them (Exodus 39:43).
Delegation requires accountability.