Imagine David sitting down with you and me at the end of his life, offering us the opportunity to ask him what tips he might have for us for our own leadership today. What might he tell us? The following may well be included in his top 10:
1. Be Your Unique, God-given Self.
David was a groundbreaker in his day that flowed from his high level of differentiation. His entire leadership trajectory, beginning from his earliest decision to remove Saul’s armor, consisted of one courageous act to after another.
Then Saul dressed David in his own tunic. He put a coat of armor on him and a bronze helmet on his head. David fastened on his sword over the tunic and tried walking around, because he was not used to them. “I cannot go in these,” he said to Saul, “because I am not used to them.” So he took them off. 1 Sam. 17:38-39
2.Remember God’s Faithfulness in Your Past as You Take on Larger Challenges.
David remembered his victories over the lion and the bear, enabling him to take on Goliath.
But David said to Saul… Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, because he has defied the armies of the living God. The Lord who rescued me from the paw of the lion and the paw of the bear will rescue me from the hand of this Philistine.” 1 Sam. 17:36-37
3. Wait When Tempted to Rush.
David did not rush to the kingship of Israel but patiently waited – even as Saul sought to kill him. Like Jesus, he learned obedience from what he suffered (Heb. 5:8).
4. Root Your Identity in Being a Contemplative First, Then a Leader.
David hungers and thirsts for God. He delights in God’s Word. He sings about his one overriding priority:
One thing I ask from the Lord, this only do I seek: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze on the beauty of the Lord and to seek him in his temple. Ps. 27:4
5. Remain Humble, Broken, and Loyal to Those in Authority Over You.
Saul was a poor leader in many ways. Nonetheless, we read the following:
Then David went out of the cave and called out to Saul, “My lord the king!” When Saul looked behind him, David bowed down and prostrated himself with his face to the ground. 1 Sam. 24:8
6. Monitor Carefully the Rhythms of Work and Rest for Those You Lead.
In 1 Sam. 30, David demonstrates gracious and sensitive leadership at the Besor Ravine in the midst of great pressure. After returning from one battle with his 600 men, David is confronted with a new crisis and another battle. 200 of his men, however, are exhausted. He marches them to the Besor Ravine and allows them to rest. Meanwhile, he and the others go off to defeat the Amalekites. Then he declares that everybody at the Besor Ravine that day are equals and will share equally in the spoils of their victory.
7. Identify Jonathans at Each Season of Your Journey.
Jonathan served as a key encourager to David in very difficult times. We each need “Jonathans,” i.e. mentors, counselors, spiritual directors, and great friends to keep us aligned with God’s purposes.
8. Remember: “Unguarded Strength is Double Weakness.”
I learned this from a wise mentor of mine who learned this lesson the hard way. David grew sloppy with his sexuality (2 Sam. 11), and with his great power (1 Chron. 21), at the height of his success.
9. Don’t be Afraid to Lead Out of Brokenness, Losses, and Failures.
How many leaders would commit murder and adultery, and write a song about it to be sung in church? How many would allow it to be recorded in the history books for all time? How many would stop the advance of their agenda to grieve the loss of their enemies (2 Sam. 1)?
10. Give Extravagantly of Your Resources.
God told David no to his request to build the Temple. Nonetheless, his financial generosity in 1 Chronicles 29 is a wonder to behold. Out of a heart for worship, David models a heart overflowing with gratitude.
Of these top ten leadership tips from the life of David, which one is most significant for you to consider today? What might God be saying to you?