“Strong Hand” Leadership


Picture1Let’s play a game. Think about the “Bosses” you have had in your career. As their faces flow through your mind, you probably have a different feeling about each of them. Now I want you to take the bosses that you had good feelings about and ask yourself what was it about them that gives you a good feeling?

I would imagine your answers would include things like: Good Listener, Understanding, Helper, Leader, Fair, Honest, Coach, Teacher, Visionary, etc. Those are all good things to have in your boss. I’ve had a few that brought about those same feelings.

The funny thing is, when we think about the bosses we didn’t like, or the bosses that gave us bad feelings, we usually can come up with a much longer list! It doesn’t take very many things for us to think highly of a boss, but if the good character traits are not present, we can quickly make a long list of the things that lead us the other way.

I have been reading the book of Exodus in my Bible lately, and recently came across this verse:

But the Lord said to Moses, “Now you shall see what I will do to Pharaoh; for with a strong hand he will send them out, and with a strong hand he will drive them out of his land.”  -Genesis 6:1

This started me thinking about Leadership. You can call it management, being “The Boss”, a Director, or whatever title you want to, but at the end of the day, we are talking about the person set up as the leader in an organization or group.

What we are going to discuss are some of the things that need to be avoided if you are in a position of leadership. You will impact people just by having a leadership position. The question is, do you want to impact them for good or for bad?

Let’s take a few minutes to go over some of what I see in the Bible regarding the leadership of the Pharaoh and his “strong hand.” How does a “strong hand” mentality come to be? What are some of the attributes of a “strong hand” management style? What is the outcome of a “strong hand” approach in an organization?

Time can make a tender hand strong – The Pharaohs built on each other’s reigns and kingdoms.  They were always expanding the nation. The personalities of each Pharaoh may be different, but they were devoted to their nation, and wanted to see it grow. That’s a good thing, right?

The Pharaohs had ruled over Egypt for a long time, and when a ruler controls something for a long time, they begin to feel entitled to certain things. When those things don’t happen fast enough or the way they want them to be done, they can begin to get harsh in their actions. Before too long a “god-complex” begins to form, and the “strong hand” begins to hold people down, punish, or even banish.

A leader that has maintained a position for a long time needs to be constantly checking himself for this tendency. He needs to have someone look into his way of leading. The leader must allow them to bring out things that might be getting too strong handed

The strong hand comes out when a threat is perceived, even if it is not  threat at all – Let’s look at the differences between the Pharaoh of Joseph’s time and Moses’ time:

  • Joseph’s Pharaoh made him the #2 guy in all the land. Everyone who came to Egypt for anything that they needed had to go see Joseph. Pharaoh could have felt threatened by Joseph, but he saw that Joseph did not have dreams of overthrowing the Pharaoh and ruling the kingdom. All Joseph was doing was caring for the people around him. A by-product of that caring was the salvation of the nation of Egypt! The Pharaoh was the leader of Egypt, but he allowed Joseph to do as he wished to protect and build Egypt up.  They shared a goal!
  • Moses’ Pharaoh was threatened by the sheer number of Israelites. The Israelites possessed no power and were not in a position to overthrow the Pharaoh. However, they were the people of God, that was deemed to be threat enough. He then used his power to keep them down and in despair. Through brutal labor, he kept their spirits low so they would not rise up against him.  Crush the spirit of those you are threatened by even when they are not really a threat. I wonder if the people would have been happy to stay and continue to build the kingdom if they had been treated well?  It didn’t matter because this Pharaoh’s goal ultimately was to build up himself.

When you forget the past, the strong hand comes out – When Joseph was in Egypt, the Pharaoh may have been a hard man, but he recognized a good thing when he saw it. He elevated Joseph into a position of leadership and through that promotion, God blessed not only Joseph and Israel, but also Egypt! The Pharaoh saw his wealth increase as a result of having God’s people at work in his kingdom. Joseph brought in wealth through the food that he had set aside. Joseph’s brothers cared for and built the herds of Pharaoh as well.

Later a Pharaoh took the throne who did not know Joseph. He didn’t care about the past, how Egypt and Israel worked together for mutual benefit. He did not recognize the blessing of having the Israelites in his nation, and saw them instead as a tool he could use, and then something that threatened his reign. He began to treat them harshly and they began to cry out to God.

The people that work for you have done good things for you. They have achieved things for you that you could not have done alone.  Don’t let your vision be clouded by the little things or the one-time disagreements. Focus on what you have achieved together!

The strong hand approach always leads to loss – Pharaoh lost. He lost his son, wealth, a workforce, & his army. When God said He was going to deal with Pharaoh, it was because of his strong hand. It had gone on long enough, and it had hurt the innocent.

Pharaoh’s strong hand caused the people of Israel to call out to God for help. They had been under the lash long enough and they were begging for rescue. His strong-handed approach made him see only what could be done for him, and when he thought of letting them go he only saw the loss of the work they could do for him.

When he lost his son, He was willing to let them go, but even in that he decided that he would chase and kill. His strong hand looked for a way to hurt the Israelites, and that led to even more loss. When a leader uses the strong hand approach, loss will always come, and in the end, that leader will often feel it the worst.

Leadership is hard and not for the faint of heart.  It requires hard choices, decisive thinking, and at times, it requires painful circumstances.  What leadership does not do is sacrifice people for the goal.  When an organization’s leader has a goal that it wants to attain at all costs, it is time to be concerned about that leader’s true goals.  If the leader  sets goals that matter more than the people there is a problem.

I look at the model of Christ in His dealings with His disciples.  He led them and he sent them to do things in multiple locations where He could not go all at the same time.  He told them they would do greater things than He.  He gave them the Holy Spirit to dwell in them. He had a goal of reaching the lost, and He used the individual abilities and gifts of the disciples to do it.  He never forgot why He was there as he taught, led, and modeled.  He was there to serve.  His was a gentle hand of leadership, and his humility resulted in His being lifted up.

A leader who wants to live a Relentless life takes the time to look at those in leadership around him.  He takes the good that he sees from the good leaders, and sees the warning signs in the others.  He looks at Christ and weighs it all against Him and His message of redemption and restoration.

So, how about it?  Do you want to have a strong hand or a gentle hand?

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Author: Tom Tanner

I'm a follower of Christ, husband, and father. Over the last few years I have been learning how to dig deeper into God's Word and letting it influence more of my life. As I learn, try, fail, and repeat in this process I am seeing God's hand more and more in my life and that of my family as well. This journey is long, hard, and at times a little lonely, but living a Relentless life for Christ has rewards that reach beyond me and my family. My prayer is that it brings God glory and leaves a legacy that will show His influence in my life.

I would love to hear your comments here or e-mail them privately to myrelentlessgrowth@gmail.com

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