What Does The Bible Say About Leadership

One of my favorite topics is leadership. The Bible is full of leadership lessons, but what surprised me was what leadership characteristic the "Good" kings of Israel possessed and how they matched Jesus' leadership.
What Does The Bible Say About Leadership

Stories that we often hear from the perspective of a Sunday School lesson come alive in a business context. Take Esther for example. In modern-day terms, we find her in a position of influence within an evil, powerful conglomerate. She could have complained or quit but she instead chose to influence from within. In fact, she’s able to influence the CEO in-spite of her position. You could look at Moses and how to delegate, Joshua and how to trust God for victory or Caleb as to how to finish, even the shrewdness of Jacob gives us lessons. These lessons are great, but most fail to give us a complete blueprint on what the Bible would call “Good Leadership.”

What Does The Bible Say About Poor Leadership

One reason people search this question is in regards to poor leadership.  Whether it’s Presidential antics (every President ever has been questioned), bosses or Pastors, it’s natural to question leadership.  Even a vacation trip often leads to questioning, “are we heading in the right direction?”

Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God.Romans 13:1 NIV

I may not agree with a leader’s stance on a subject matter, but I can disagree with respect. There have been some amazingly evil rulers thoughout history and it’s really hard to place blame on God for this.  This scripture doesn’t mean that God selected a king but that his right to rule over people was a priveldge that was granted all the way back in Samuel.

Israel Wants A King

You might remember that Israel didn’t have an official King until they defiantly rejected God’s way and wanted to follow the world’s way. Let’s look at this story,

“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Look, you are old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ But the thing displeased Samuel when they said, ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ So Samuel prayed to the Lord. And the Lord said to Samuel, ‘Heed the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me, that I should not reign over them.’” 1 Samuel 8 5:7 NIV

Up until this point, Israel was a tribe of people that relied on God and the prophets who had a close relationship with God to direct them. History of that time suggests that having a King would be the natural progression. I wonder what would have happened had Israel not asked for an Earthly King. God warns them of this decision:

“This will be the behavior of the king who will reign over you: He will take your sons and appoint them for his own chariots and to be his horsemen, and some will run before his chariots. He will appoint captains over his thousands and captains over his fifties, will set some to plow his ground and reap his harvest, and some to make his weapons of war and equipment for his chariots. He will take your daughters to be perfumers, cooks, and bakers. And he will take the best of your fields, your vineyards, and your olive groves, and give them to his servants. He will take a tenth of your grain and your vintage, and give it to his officers and servants. And he will take your male servants, your female servants, your finest young men, and your donkeys, and put them to his work. He will take a tenth of your sheep. And you will be his servants. And you will cry out in that day because of your king whom you have chosen for yourselves, and the Lord will not hear you in that day.” – I Samuel 8:10-18 NIV1 Samuel 8 10-18NIV

Essentially, a king will make you a servant. Sounds like a bad deal to me. The people wanted to go from trusting God’s direction to having a man rule them and hope he was humble enough to submit to God. Essentially, they wanted to replace God with a man.

When Jesus came to break the chains of the curse of the law, I believe this is one of the links that were broken. Instead of restoring the old order of priests, we are able to hear directly from God. Instead of the idea of a king turning his subjects into servants, the king is now the greatest servant.

We know from this that a king leads his people, manages resources, stakes a claim in the lives of his subjects for better or worse and manages the military campaigns. Notice the implication here is that if a kingdom driven leader does not heed the voice of the Lord that those they influence will be crying.

What Does The Bible Say Is Good Leadership

If you study the leaders of Israel from Saul to Zedekiah, you’ll discover principles, actions, and characteristics that the Bible highlights. Most leadership characteristics like humility or wisdom are easy to identify.  If you’re not truly satisfied with this list, then examine the life of Jesus and look for any similarities to stories of good kings and His life.

See the patterns and how they match up with what Jesus did. Jesus not only had the heart characteristics of a good old testament king but He did many of the same actions such as tearing down strongholds and taking captives.

Biblical Leadership Characteristics

All great kings prepared. We are not endeavoring to simply learn about Godly leadership principles, but rather to put them into action. We aim to build a life that impacts generations. Every good king had some measure of these characteristics. A great leader is also never satisfied with the quality of these characteristics.  I covered these in the 10 characteristics of a kingdom leader, but here they are summed up.

100% Submitted to Christ

Surrender For Success.  We’re discussing Biblical leadership principles, not corporate leadership development.  However, at the end of your life, your mission will be a raging success if you do this one thing. This is what separated the good leaders from the poor ones.

Hears From God

Talk With The King Of Kings.  Your mission is critical and its success is dependent on your ability to hear His voice.  Great Biblical leaders talked with God and listened to priests.


A Leader’s True Power.   The quintessential essence of a leader. The Bible proclaims it, Jesus exudes it, and research proves it, the one trait every leader must possess to be a true kingdom leader.  While King David’s humility is chronicled throughout Psalms, kings like Hezekiah and Asa humbled themselves before God and helped correct their people.


Attitude changes everything. Integrity is that attitude in action. Integrity builds trust and sets the stage for a kingdom leader to press forward.

Holy Discontentment

Discover Your Holy Mission.  God uses your journey to prepare you for your mission. Within you is the desire to accomplish this mission already.  Interestingly, ever king that the Bible calls good had a mission, usually to undo the wrong the previous king had done.

Seeks Wise Counsel

Surround Yourself With Success.  David surrounded himself with wise counsel, from Samuel and Nathan, to his war generals and even other leaders, David was an expert at connecting on purpose.

A Spirit of Excellence

Do Work That Is Noticed By God.  After Solomon, the kingdom split in two. The “‘boams” come to power (not related), Jeroboam and Rehoboam.  While Rehoboam was Solomon’s son, Jeroboam was not.  Jeroboam became king because God noticed his work.  As a person working for Solomon he rose in stature due to his work ethic.

What do you think?  What leadership lessons has the Bible taught you?



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