Leaders, Trust Your Followers

Today’s reading: Joshua 2:1-24. Key verses: Joshua 2:10-11.

Joshua 2 begins with a secret mission when Joshua commissions two Israelite ninjas to sneak over the Jordan and into Jericho to spy out the land. The spies are to gain information that will help the Israelites when they cross the Jordan and begin the invasion of the land. The chapter has leadership lessons from both Joshua and the Lord.

Leadership Principle 2.1: Don’t try to do it all yourself

Joshua doesn’t attempt to act as a spy himself here, although he had done so in the past (see Numbers 13). Instead, he is comfortable sending two spies and awaiting their results. So often leaders fail to trust their followers to perform tasks they think only they could accomplish. But the truth is that no one is irreplaceable. The task may get done differently than, you as the leader, had anticipated, but it will like be done satisfactorily, and you will have succeeded in empowering your employees/followers for future tasks. Delegation of authority is counterintuitive from a human perspective, but the results are worth it.

Leadership Principle 2.2: When faced with a hard task, make sure to take steps to prepare well

Joshua’s sending of the spies is not a failure to trust the Lord for provision. Instead, it is a practical way of acknowledging that the Lord is with them in the battle, and so they should diligently prepare knowing he has given them the victory. Sending spies into the land shows Joshua wanted to be prepared for the task at hand. Irresponsible leaders are those who are unprepared to lead. If leadership demonstrates God’s delegation of authority to human beings (and I believe it does), shouldn’t we as leaders be as prepared as possible so we do not bring shame to the Ultimate Leader?

Leadership Principle 2.3: Our actions as leaders have far-reaching impact

This point is demonstrated in that Rahab tells the spies she has heard of what the Lord did for Israel to save them and bring them to Canaan.

“For we have heard how the LORD dried up the water of the Red Sea before you when you came out of Egypt, and what you did to the two kings of the Amorites who were beyond the Jordan, to Sihon and Og, whom you utterly destroyed. When we heard it, our hearts melted and no courage remained in any man any longer because of you; for the LORD your God, He is God in heaven above and on earth beneath,” (Josh 2:10-11).

What the Lord does for Israel in Egypt and in the wilderness is heard of far and wide, and actually begins the invasion into Canaan before any Israelite steps foot across the Jordan. The renown of the Lord wages a psychological warfare whereby the inhabitants of the land are terrified of this powerful God who has parted the waters of the sea and deposed two powerful kings.

As a leader, you might not think your actions effect many people, especially if your employees or followers are small in number. And yet your actions have the lasting effect of speaking to others long after you are gone. Think about the example of Jesus, whose model of servant leadership continues to shape the lives of his followers today. What example will you set through your actions for future generations of leaders and followers?

Leadership Principle 2.4: Trusting your followers builds confidence and motivation for future tasks.

The two spies, after speaking with Rahab and making their pact with her, return to Joshua excited with their news. Their conclusion is: “Surely the LORD has given all the land into our hands; moreover, all the inhabitants of the land have melted away before us,” (Josh 2:24). Joshua’s delegation of this task to these two men resulted in their confidence not only for the coming conquest but also in the Lord. It also motivated them for the invasion when they saw that the people of Jericho and Canaan were afraid of Israel and their God.

In the next segment we will look at Rahab in particular and lessons on leadership from her life.

JJ Routley

Jonathan J. Routley (JJ) serves as Professor of Bible and Theology at Emmaus Bible College in Dubuque, Iowa. JJ also serves on the Board of Directors for the Associates for Biblical Research (ABR). He holds a PhD in Theological Studies from Columbia International University, South Carolina. JJ and his family reside in Dubuque, Iowa.
Blog: jjroutley.wordpress.com
Twitter: @JJ_Routley