17 Leadership Lessons from Saul and David

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oldtestamentI recently read the story of Saul and David from the Old Testament (I Sam 27 – 30) and walked away with these priceless gems of leadership.  Perhaps I don’t see what others see when they read the Bible, but these are a few of my take-aways.

1)  Be clear about who your enemies are and why they are against you!  When you understand why an enemy exists, you’ll be better positioned to identity other enemies who haven’t revealed themselves yet. This insight gives you time to prepare. Smart enemies show their hands when it is advantageous, not just to hate you.

2)  Know which of your competitors hates your enemies and why.  David was able to partner with his enemy, Achish (a leader of the Philistines), and went after enemies that killed two birds with one spear!  He killed people who were enemies both the Philistines and the COI.  This information will help you clarify your relative market position.

3)  Use what you know about your enemies to craft a win-win situation if you need to.  David knew Saul was trying to kill him, and he needed not only a place to go, but he also needed to develop his skills.  Although he wasn’t a “friend” to the Philistines, they were both able to benefit from his predicament.  Sometimes, you might have to partner with your enemy:  don’t be fooled into thinking that mutual need = friendship.  It only means that you had mutual goals and that it was advantageous, efficient, and convenient to get there together.

4)  Don’t tell everything!  Even if someone is helping you, be thoughtful about what you share and stay focused!  Achish thought David was with him for the long haul because David was killing his enemies who were really their joint enemies.  David knew what his goals were and that the relationship was temporary.  Stay focused because your mutual goal will eventually come to an end and the conflict will return.

5)  Pay your bills, fully, regardless of the individual to whom you owe the debt.  When David walked away from Achish, he didn’t owe anything.  He gave Achish the spoils of the war just as he was supposed to because he was living in Achish’s house, had committed himself to Achish for a time, and that was appropriate at the time (I Sam 27: 5 – 9).  Don’t be greedy, even when you deal with the enemy. Be ethical.

6)  Know who and what is critical to your business, your network, and your sense of peace.  You need to know the habits and lifestyle that you need to maintain that allow you to function at your peak.  Likewise, you need to know what your key business relationships and tools are so that you can protect them:  THESE ARE YOUR DOGS IN THE FIGHT!  You must guard them.  If you lose them, you will lose the source of your success.  Even God stopped speaking to Saul (I Sam 28:6 – 25)!

7)  Your enemies know your successes!  They also know your claim to fame!  They know what people say about you, both good and bad.  Be aware of your reputation.  You shouldn’t build your reputation with refuting your enemies in mind, but you should definitely be aware of your image.  You should conduct yourself in such a way that your reputation doesn’t make you vulnerable.  This speaks to integrity and discretion (I Sam 29:5)!

8)  Sometimes getting fired is a good thing.  Sometimes, getting fired or rejected ushers you into the next phase of your life.  Don’t lose a lot of sleep over chapters that have ended.  By the same token, you need to develop your sense of intuition and learn how to read the tea leaves a bit.  God gave David an out, and he took it…graciously and thankfully (I Sam 29: 6 – 11).  Notice, David asserted his position, but he didn’t plead.

9)  If you have to work closely with your enemy, don’t let your guard down completely.

10)  If you’re going to be a leader, you have to be able to encourage yourself because people will blame you whenever anything goes wrong, particularly, if it is a big thing that goes wrong (I Sam 30:6).

11)  Not everybody who starts out with you will be able to go with you to the end.  Sometimes people can’t support you at all, or maybe not all the way to the end. That doesn’t mean they are malicious (I Sam 30: 11 – 13). Don’t hold grudges. Being astute, holding a grudge and accepting a situation for what it is are not the same.

12)  Be careful about how you treat people on your team, particularly, those you discard.  These folks can be your downfall or your support particularly if they have access to important information.  Why give people an incentive to betray you by treating them poorly (I Sam 30: 11 – 13)?  And if there is basic provision you can provide, provide it!

13)  When you need to remove people from your team, be judicious and gracious. Don’t give in to the temptation to be brutal (I Sam 30: 22 -31).

14)  Don’t fool yourself into thinking that you are taking the high road by ignoring aggressive enemies:  they really are trying to kill you!  However, it is important that you don’t give them all of your mental space and that you deal wisely and strategically them.  If you play your cards right, they will shoot themselves in the foot (I Sam 31:4).

15)  If you are gracious in how you deal with your enemies and refuse to add fuel to the fire, they will die a grand death (I Sam 31: 9 – 10), and you will be vindicated.  People who watched and said nothing while you were being attacked will see how you prevail.  They will note your character.

16)  Continue to maintain a posture of graciousness when your enemy falls.  If you celebrate when your enemy falls, you undermine all of your previous restraint (I Sam 31:11 – 13).

17)  I picked this one up before I got to chapter 27:  respect other leaders!  Even if other leaders do things differently than you do or would, respect them and their position.

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