leadership do’s and don’ts

I recently came across a pretty funny example of a leadership “don’t” from the life of David, while reading the One-Year Bible.

After David commits adultery with Bathsheba and gets her pregnant, he tries to cover up his sin by having her husband killed. He arranges to have Uriah placed on the front line, where he dies in battle. Joab, the military leader, instructs the messenger on how to report back to David and in preparing him, provides some insight about their leader:

“When you have finished giving the king this account of the battle, the king’s anger may flare up, and he may ask you, ‘Why did you get so close to the city to fight? Didn’t you know they would shoot arrows from the wall? Who killed Abimelech son of Jerub-Besheth? Didn’t a woman throw a rock on him from the wall, so that he died? Why did you get so close to the wall?’ If he asks you this, then say to him, ‘Yeah…and Uriah is dead.’ “ (2 samuel 11:14-21)

You’ve seen this happen. A boss says, “You need to fire Bob.” So you do. And your boss comes back at you with a little bit of hindsight micro-managing: “Why did you just let him walk out? Did you get his key? Why didn’t you get his files first? Did he meet with Human Resources? Didn’t you think to call security? ” And you say, “Yeah… and Bob’s gone.” You probably did everything required of you, and in fact achieved the desired objective.

That story is followed in a few pages by a leadership “do.” In 2 Samuel 17 & 18, David is preparing for battle. He appoints commanders and sends the troops out, saying, “Oh, and by the way, I’ll be marching out with you.” (18:2)

“But the men said, ‘You must not go out; if we are forced to flee, they won’t care about us. Even if half of us die, they won’t care; but you are worth ten thousand of us. It would be better now for you to give us support from the city.’

The king answered, ‘I will do whatever seems best to you.’
So the king stood beside the gate while all the men marched out in units of hundreds and of thousands.” (18:3-4)

Clearly, the troops had the best interest of David and their mission at heart. And it is a wise leader who is willing to trust and follow the judgment of those he employs in his service.

In the comments: Turns out my leadership “do” is really a don’t…

6 thoughts on “leadership do’s and don’ts

  1. I disagree. I believe one reason David got in cahoots with Bathsheba is because he did NOT go out to battle with his men. He was left with nothing to do in the city. Furthermore, the people of Israel specifically demanded of God a king to “go out before us, and fight our battles” (1 Samuel 8:20 KJV). Now they were saying he should NOT go to battle. David was becoming more godlike to them. The Law, too, warned against the future king lifting himself over the people. Now the people were saying he was worth ten thousand of them, when, at the beginning of his military career, the women sang that David had slain “ten thousands” (1 Samuel 18:7 KJV).


    1. That is a really thought-provoking perspective. Now I’m going to have to go back and re-read the whole story. Thanks for commenting.


    2. I recently finished a study of David (Anointed, Transformed, Redeemed), and Kay Arthur stressed Michael’s first point. Second Samuel 11:1 says, “In the spring, at the time when kings go off to war, David sent Joab out with the king’s men and the whole Israelite army. . . . But David remained in Jerusalem.” David did not do what kings were supposed to do at that time of year, so he ended up pursuing Bathsheba, even though he had other wives.


  2. well… it appears I’m guilty of taking this story out of context, and I should definitely know better. Thank you both for your gracious manner in correcting.


    1. I’m not sure that you took it out of context. I don’t understand everything about the story, but I believe that Joab knew why David wanted Uriah to die, and he expected David to be angry and try to blame others for Uriah’s death.


  3. Uriah was a stand-up gentleman, a real credit to men in general. But he was a Hittite, one of the covenant enemies enumerated by God in the Law. I still wonder how David could include him as a general in his army while a Levitical priest, of all people, who should know better, allowed his daughter to marry a Hittite! But I also think this little matter irked Joab to no end. Even though Joab never made a point of Uriah’s tribal affiliation, I believe, over his lifetime of service, Joab was a patriot, thinking of king and country before he thought of God. I do not think Joab ever liked the idea of serving alongside a Hittite, because he was not an Israelite, and he was only too glad to do David’s dirty work.

    I think it is telling that David sinned with a woman who should not have been married to a Hittite, and the son who staged a military coup against him because of this sin was David’s son, Absalom, by a foreign king’s daughter, who also was among the enemies of Israel. What does it tell? Perhaps that, no matter how we might rationalize what we do, our sin will find us out.


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