#053: The Leader’s Role as Arbiter and Judge—Five Important Tips

One of the roles that befall you as a leader is that of arbiter and judge. You may not like it, but not liking it won’t make the role go away.

Judge, Arbiter, Bible

Employees will come to you with issues representing various opinions, and you will need to make a decision as to which is the right answer, or the preferred course of action. Customers may look to you as the arbiter in settling a customer service issue.

The book of Exodus recounts the story of Moses executing his role as the judge for the Israelite people (Exodus 18:13-26). The Scripture says Moses took his seat to serve as judge, and the people stood around him from morning to night as Moses judged between them. As judge, Moses was responsible for deciding between the parties, and giving them God’s decrees and instructions.

Can you imagine? Scholars estimate there were 2.5 – 3.5 million Israelites following Moses out of Egypt on their way to the Promised Land. You think you’ve got problems? Imagine being the sole judge for the population of a city somewhere between the size of Chicago and Los Angeles!

Yet that was what Moses did, until his father-in-law Jethro showed up and gave Moses some helpful advice. Jethro said you are God’s representative to the people, but you’re going to wear yourself out—the work is too great for you. Jethro told Moses he needed to teach the people about God’s decrees and instructions; how they are to live, and how they are to behave. Jethro advised Moses to then select capable, trustworthy men to serve as judges over the people. They were to serves as judges handling all the simple cases, and to bring only the hardest cases to Moses. This, Jethro said, would lighten Moses’ responsibility, and both he and the people would be happier because the load would be shared.

Fast forward some 400+ years to Psalm 82. The psalmist recognizes God’s supreme authority and criticizes the judges over the nation who he describes as defending the unjust, and showing partiality to the wicked. The judges should, says the psalmist, defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed; and rescue the weak and needy from the hands of the wicked. He goes on to admonish them saying these ineffective judges know nothing, and understand nothing!

Five Important Tips for Us

  • You cannot do it all alone. The mantle of leadership is heavy enough without taking on responsibilities that should be shared through proper levels of delegation.
  • Let the entire organization know what is expected of them. Instruct managers and employees alike what is expected of them at work, how they should behave, and how questions and problems should be managed.
  • Develop leaders whom you trust to handle the vast majority of issues. Then empower them with this shared responsibility.
  • Establish clear-cut protocols for what issues that should be brought to you directly for resolution. Some issues are too important to delegate, so don’t try to duck your responsibility as judge/arbiter by delegating everything!
  • Hold leaders accountable. Systems to provide checks and balances on leaders need to be in place, not to restrict the freedom of the leaders, but to insure that the responsibilities of judging are executed equitably.

 Join the Conversation!

As always questions and comments are welcome. What kind of difficult situations have you encountered as a leader in your organization? Were they handled appropriately/fairly? Do you have any other suggestions for establishing systems that will insure leaders exercise their power righteously?

Category: Relationships | Power/Influence

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