Do you read the Bible? I bet you do. Do you find that sometimes God is a bossy, mean bully (like Leviticus 20:9-10 and Deuteronomy 7) and at other times he’s a helper who’s always around (like Ps.46)? He wants us to “love our neighbor” (1Cor. 13) and then “hate our mother and father” (Luke 14:26). What’s up with all that?
It’s my opinion (which I developed at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome in 1959) that the Bible was written “in many different genres by many different men with many different agendas,” and it must be read with this in mind. One of the authors I really like is the one who wrote about the leader, Yahweh (God), in the story of the Exodus beginning with chapter three.
Yahweh starts by finding the problem: “I have seen the affliction of my people and heard their cry because of their taskmasters.” (Exodus 3:7)
If you’re a leader, this is your first job. Find the problem. Somewhere in your organization, there’s a problem. It might be financial; it might be structural; it might be personalities. Find it. Why do you think you’ve got this job? If they didn’t need you, or there wasn’t a problem, or they could have made it without you -- do you think for one minute you’d be here? Not a chance.
There’s a problem. Call it “an opportunity” or “a challenge.” But it’s your job to fix something; to decrease expenses, to increase volume, to teach the kids, to grow your department. Something. Yahweh’s problem was serious: his people were overworked and underpaid and treated like slaves. (Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?)
Secondly, find the root cause of your problem. Yahweh stated his root cause: “The Egyptians are cruel and unjust employers.” I never had a root cause quite that severe. And, perhaps, you don’t now, but that’s why so many of us fail. Our root cause is too small or too hidden, or it’s just not “politically correct” to identify it. However, if you’re the leader of a community theater, or a church choir, or a civic club, or a large corporation -- you know who or what is the root cause of your major problem. Take care of it!
Yahweh did. We wouldn’t have much of a story in Exodus if Yahweh had waited to act until the Hebrew nation was securely established in Israel. There would be no Passover, no Red Sea crossing, no 40 years of soul-searching, nation-making, salvation history. Yahweh enters the story at the height of the problem and solves the root cause.
That’s where you must enter. Whether you’ve been in your position for years or have just been appointed, you must enter now -- today -- looking for that problem and enter the way Yahweh did -- all the way.
As you read Exodus, you feel Yahweh is spending all his time with Moses. He’s got nothing else to do. No one else in the world needs his attention. No other problem -- no other nation -- no other universe, is important. Your people must feel the same way. This problem -- at this time -- is the most pressing thing on your mind, and you’re going to stay with it. Solving their problem is their promised land. They are the ones who will benefit. However, like Moses, after you solve it, you may be left outside. And that’s OK. That’s what leaders do.
Can you handle this? Can you work to get them promoted, to get them the praise, the raise and the recognition? Can you think of your job -- as the leader -- to get them into their “promised land,” even though you may be passed over?
Nobody said it was easy.
Bill Cummings is the CEO of Cummings Consolidated Corporation and Cummings Management Consultants. His website is digitallydrc.com.