Then they spoke to him, saying, “If you will be a servant to this people today, and will serve them and grant them their petition, and speak good words to them, then they will be your servants forever. –I Kings 12:7 (NASB)
Every institution–whether a family, church, club, school, business or government–requires leadership. The question then, is: what kind of leadership? Bestselling author John Maxwell claims, “It all rises and falls on leadership.” Some people believe being a leader means you put yourself above everyone else, lord your authority over them, and give orders left and right. This approach is summed up by the phrase, “my way or the highway.”
A tragic but illustrative story from the Bible shows how leadership can dissolve in only three generations. David was known as the greatest king of Israel. His son, Solomon, was known as the wisest man who ever lived. But the grandson, Rehoboam, was no wise man. Instead, he could be called “a wise guy.” After Solomon’s death, some leaders of Israel approached Rehoboam the new king and told him, if he ruled with leniency, “we will serve you.” (v. 4). Rehoboam asked for three days to mull it over. He asked the elders, and they gave him the advice above: “be a servant”…”serve them”…”grant them their petition”…”speak good words to them.” Simply put, the elders–drawing on their decades of life experience–told Rehoboam to be a “servant leader” and he would find the people to be willing followers.
Rehoboam then sought advice from “the young men who grew up with him” (v. 8). In contrast to the elders, the younger men suggested the new leader take a harsh approach. Tragically, the new king ignored the older advisers, heeded the advice of his age-group, and then foolishly announced, “my father disciplined you with whips, but I will discipline you with scorpions.” (v. 11) The result? Most in the nation were enraged by their failed leadership, the kingdom was split in two, and a Jewish civil war ensued.
Are you in a position of authority in your family? Club? Church? Neighborhood? School? Business? Use your position to help and strengthen those under you. Be a servant leader.