In leadership circles there is a common phrase used to describe one key leadership quality. “Work yourself out of a job.” At first glance, this could be interpreted as laziness, getting others to do everything for you. But, this phrase is the heart of mentoring. It’s so tempting for each of us to want to feel indispensable. We want to feel important, needed. True leadership recognizes it is only by empowering others to do your job, are you truly leading.
Let’s take a look at a great biblical example. The book of Joshua opens with Joshua succeeding Moses as the leader of the Israelites.
“Be strong and courageous, for you are the one who will lead these people to possess all the land I swore to their ancestors I would give them. Be strong and very courageous. Be careful to obey all the instructions Moses gave you.” (Joshua 1:6,7)
Moses, up until his dying day was preparing both Joshua and the Israelites for the day when he would no longer lead them. God had specifically told Moses that he would not be allowed to enter the promised land. What a crushing blow! Moses, who didn’t want this job in the first place (Exodus 3), put up with a large group of whining people for over 40 years and then in the end didn’t even receive his earthly reward. Frustrating! But examining the choices Moses made after knowing full well he would not receive his earthly reward can teach us a lot about good leadership.
Moses made the decision to set up the next leader to succeed. Because Joshua had assisted Moses for all those years, Joshua was prepared to take over the leadership of a nation. Because Israel saw Joshua being trained up, when the time came, they followed him; into a battle with a crazy plan! The battle instructions for conquering Jericho were some of the craziest! Without full confidence in your leadership, I don’t think you would follow such a bizarre set of instructions.
Changes in leadership happen around us all the time, in every facet of our life. The temptation is to make a legacy for yourself while neglecting the fact that operations must continue long after your time in the position is done. If Moses hadn’t trained Joshua to succeed I think there would have been many people who decided to sit the battle of Jericho out and see how this new leader would do. It’s a good lesson for all of us, to rally around new, godly leadership and support them even if their ideas are crazy!
What is the takeaway for us from this leadership duo’s succession? I think it’s to ask ourselves two questions. Who is the Moses in my life and who is the Joshua?
Who are you learning from? Are you willing to learn? Those of us in leadership, while we should be preparing someone to do our job well, should also be lifelong learners. We will never “arrive” in our knowledge of leadership and servanthood in this life. God always has new things to teach us. Who is that person in your life?
Who are you mentoring, teaching to do your job well? Are you holding on to a position so tightly that others aren’t allowed to lead? Think of someone today that you can start training up.
This wasn’t an overnight process for Israel and it probably won’t be for us. Joshua assisted Moses faithfully for many years. We have to be willing to be patient on both sides of this process. Mentoring, is a lifelong process with many ups and downs but when done right prepares the next person for success.
Father, I pray that you would begin to show us who to reach out to in our life. Who can we learn from and who can we be teaching? Help us to serve you better by raising up the next generation and setting them up for success.