Then the Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain … So Moses and his assistant Joshua set out, and Moses climbed up the mountain of God. (Exodus 24)
Then Moses said to the Lord, “O Lord, you are the God who gives breath to all creatures. Please appoint a new man as leader for the community …The Lord replied, “Take Joshua son of Nun, who has the Spirit in him, and lay your hands on him. (Numbers 27)
If you’ve ever climbed Pinnacle Mountain, you know there are a couple different routes to take. As you get to the top, you are basically scaling rocks, and if you’re climbing behind a person who is confident, it seems easier to just follow them. Confident leaders cultivate confident followers, which become confident leaders, and so on. The art of “Following” is an often overlooked quality when we delve into the ever timely topic of “Leadership”.
I continue to be fascinated by relationships depicted in the Bible. And as a person who has spent some years in various leadership positions, like many others, I have experienced some really great moments and some not so great moments. I have been greatly encouraged by those around me and I have been deeply disappointed in those around me. As leaders, we often turn to the latest, trendiest book on leadership, we attend conferences on leadership, and we subscribe to leadership blogs, etc. These are all helpful tools to encourage and enlighten. But I often find myself turning to the Bible to look closer at individuals who were charged with the job of leading. When we spend time really looking at the examples in scripture, I believe we can find some true models of leadership God intended for us to mirror.
One of these models is the relationship between Moses and Joshua — his assistant, or another translation says “aide”. When I read the account of Moses about to go up to the mountain to receive God’s instructions, I see that he took Joshua with him. Later, we see that Moses asks God to appoint a new leader, and we see that God chose Joshua, a man who God said, “has the Spirit in him” and who obviously was favored by God.
First of all, let me list some things I don’t see in the relationship between Moses and Joshua. I don’t see competitiveness, jealousy, arrogance, or a personal agenda. These are qualities I have encountered at times while leading various groups of people. And to be honest, these are traits I have seen exhibited quite often in women. That’s a whole other topic for another day … or 2!! These qualities can cause division and dissension, and hinder an organization from accomplishing the work that has been set before them to do.
Instead, what I do see in the relationship between Joshua and Moses is a teachable spirit, loyalty, humility, and steadfastness. These are qualities which strengthen and empower an organization and move it forward in unity of purpose. When we are not willing to follow those already appointed, to be teachable, to submit in humility, to give up our personal agendas, and to remain steadfast or loyal, we will not receive God’s appointment or favor to lead. This speaks volumes to me and I firmly believe we see modeled here a great example of a vital qualification for effective leaders to possess — and that’s the quality of first being a good follower. Effective leaders find like Joshua did as he followed behind Moses up the mountain, that the art of following well positions us to lead well!