I loathe confrontation, and that has led to a number of terrible decisions in my career. As a people pleaser, there have been times when I would much rather smile and endure, than muster the courage required to deal with a problem face-to-face.
There are tire track impressions on my back—stark reminders of several situations when I allowed someone to run right over me rather than stand my ground. (If it hadn’t been for my wife’s encouragement and support there would have been many more examples).
The problem is that ignoring a crisis does not make it go away, and refusing to stand up and confront an issue is not the definition of a strong, courageous leader.
Happily, the Bible gives us many examples of courageous people that God called on to do a great work, and one of my favorites is a little orphan girl named Esther.
Esther parents had died and she was raised by her cousin Mordecai. Through a series of remarkable circumstances Esther, a Jewess became queen of Persia, the greatest superpower the world had ever seen.
Haman, the prime minister of Persia, hated the Jews, and through a series of lies convinced the king that the Jews must be exterminated. Mordecai heard about the king’s edict to kill all the Jews, and he secretly got word to his cousin Esther.
Esther’s actions teach us five very important truths about leadership in the face of death:
Truth #1: We Need to Understand the Situation (Esther 4:1-8).
Mordecai got a copy of the king’s edict to Esther in the palace so she would understand what was at stake. At the same time, he told her she was the one person whom God had placed in a unique situation to do something to save her people.
Lesson for Us. Esther took her time to read through the king’s edict. She understood the implications of the edict, and her unique position to act on behalf of her people. Always take the time to really understand the situation before you agree to engage.
Truth #2: We Must Count the Cost (Esther 4:9-10).
Esther realized that coming before the king without being summoned might result in her execution unless the king granted her permission to come forward.
Lesson for Us. Most of the leadership situations you and I are faced with are not life and death, but regardless, it is a wise man or woman who counts the cost before proceeding.
Truth #3: We Must Always Seek God’s Wisdom (Esther 4:15-17).
Esther sent word to Mordecai that she and her servants, and Mordecai and all the Jews should pray and fast for three days to seek God’s wisdom.
Lesson for Us. Esther didn’t just pray for wisdom herself, she engaged her staff and all the Jews throughout the land to pray and fast with her. This is an oft-neglected step in the leadership action plan. Ask God! We tend to run ahead of God working on our own power. Let’s remember to stop and seek God’s will.
Truth #4: We Must Plan a Course of Action.
Esther carefully planned out her approach to the king, and how she would make a request to the king to save her people.
Lesson for Us. We’re not told explicitly in the story, but sometime during the three days of prayer and fasting, Esther devised a detailed plan of action for approaching the king and making her request known. Never act against a major initiative without a well-developed plan!
Truth #5: We Must Execute Our Plan (Esther 5:1-8, 7:1-10).
Esther got all dressed up in her royal robes and approached the king, who allowed her to enter. When the king asked what she wanted, she asked only that the king and Haman join her for dinner that evening. At the dinner, the king asked what she wanted, and she said only for the king and Haman to join her the next evening for dinner and she would tell him. The next evening, she asked the king to spare her people because they had been sold into destruction by none other than Haman.
Lesson for Us. There is a time for prayer and a time for action. Once the time for prayer was completed Esther took action the very next day. We need to be just as decisive and courageous knowing that whatever happens God is with us.
The role of a leader places us in tenuous situations where we are going to have to stand courageously because God may have placed you in this position for just a time as this (Esther 4:14).
The next time you are confronted with a leadership crisis make sure you understand the situation, count the cost, seek God’s wisdom, plan a course of action, and then and only then, execute your plan!
Join the Conversation
As always questions and comments are welcome. Have you struggled to deal with difficult situations in your role as a leader? Which of these lessons is most difficult for you?
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Category: Personal Development | Courage/Risk Taking