Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Jethro’s 10 Management Recommendations are Classic -- Exodus 18:19b-23

“You be the people’s representative before God, and you bring the disputes to God, then teach them the statutes and the laws, and make known to them the way in which they are to walk, and the work they are to do.  Furthermore, you shall select out of all the people able men who fear God, men of truth, those who hate dishonest gain; and you shall place these over them, as leaders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties and of tens.  And let them judge the people at all times; and let it be that every major dispute they will bring to you, but every minor dispute they themselves will judge.  So it will be easier for you and they will bear the burden with you.  If you do this thing and God so commands you, then you will be able to endure, and all these people also will go to their place in peace.”
Having prepared both himself and his son-in-law to whom he was about to give some advice, Jethro is now ready to share his recommendations with Moses.  After drafting my thoughts for this section, I noticed quite unintentionally that Jethro shared 10 recommendations with Moses as to how to govern the people of Israel.  With appropriate adaptation, we can apply these recommendations to our nation, to our organizations, and to our churches.
Recommendation No. 1 Be the people’s representative before God.  That has got to be the shortest and the best job description of a Christian CEO I have ever seen.  Just ‘be’ the people’s representative before God. Do not think of yourself as the boss, others will come to see you as that on their own and they will accept it better.  And remember, Who your own ‘Boss’ is.  Second, the purpose of your leadership is not about goals, products, services, finances, etc.  It is about people, first and foremost.  Third, remember that as a representative, you yourself are one of them.  You are not better, and relative to your Boss, you are not smarter.  You are one of those you represent, but you happen to have been given a different opportunity because of the way God wired you.  Finally, your key role is to draw upon the ultimate Source of wisdom and justice.  You (and those you place in subordinate leadership positions) are simply a conduit between the people and God, presenting Him with their challenges (family, church, organization, and country) that they face.  Recognize your role as such and then act accordingly.
Recommendation No. 2 Bring their disputes to God.  I know this sounds much like the first recommendation but I would submit that it is not.  Recommendation No. 1 speaks of who the leader is.  This recommendation speaks of what the leader does.  As a leader, you are to actual lay the challenges and disputes that people have before God’s throne and trust Him with the solution.  You need not fear the outcome or that He cannot handle them.  Hudson Taylor, that great famous early missionary to China, would tell you that his greatest secret for success was his ability to “turn his problems over to Jesus” and then leave them under His care.  As a leader and representative of those people looking to you for wisdom, direction, care, fairness, justice, and so much more, you need to simply take those problems “before God”.  When I was starting to learn that, and practiced it more and more, two things happened in my own leadership.  I enjoyed my work and my life much more and I could sleep at night much better.  There may often be a temptation to address brand new challenging issues yourself, but I caution you not to.  Doing so may result in two undesirable outcomes.  First, you will not necessarily have the best answer to the challenge. Secondly, you may get into the habit of “going it alone” – without God.  Both can have serious consequences.  (Note: I am not saying there are no problems that you should not be able to handle from experience or from your own knowledge of God’s Word; there are.  And Jethro’s list allows for that, as we will see shortly.)
Recommendation No. 3 Teach the people the statutes and laws. In the world of work, arbitrators who decide cases between employers and employees or unions have a rule of thumb: did the employer make his/her rules well known on a regular basis to the employees?  If he/she had, then the action that they may have taken against an employee for breaking the rules may be more justified.  While ignorance of the law may not be an excuse, certainly breaking the law when you know it, presents a harder case to defend.  But Jethro did not want Moses to teach his people the laws and statutes, just so that they could break them and be punished.  On the contrary, Jethro sensed God wants us to know them so that we will know what is required of us in order to live at peace with our Maker and our fellow man.
Recommendation No. 4 Teach them how to walk or live their lives – everything they needed in order to accept themselves, to carry out their associations with others, and to enjoy their relationship with God.  Life was hard in the wilderness; it was different than in Egypt.  New ways of interacting were critical to the survival of the group.  It is no different today, as the world evolves so quickly, as life becomes faster and faster – we, especially as believers, need to know how best to ‘walk’ in the midst of our ever-changing cultures.
Recommendation No. 5 Teach them what work they are to do.  Jethro recommended that Moses assign jobs to individuals.  We do not know if that meant every man, woman, and child – but certainly it covered all the men.  And if this was the case, realistically it could only be done as he implemented some of the other recommendations involving delegation that Jethro gave him.  It is interesting, however, that as a leader, Moses was to advised to provide jobs for people because Jethro realized that people needed a means whereby to contribute to their society.  God has made us in a way which requires us to be busy, employ our God-given talents and abilities, and bring forth results.  After all, we are made in the Creator’s image.  Leaders both in general life (politics), at work (industry) and in our churches (faith) need to give people work to do.
Recommendation No. 6 Select able men who fear God, are truthful, and hate dishonest gain.  Wow, do we ever need this today.  We need it in every aspect of our life – government, industry, education, research, retail, and in our churches.  You can read the political scandals that come out almost daily in the media to know we do not have it in our government.  You only need to read one issue of the Institute of Global Ethics’ newsletter to know we do not have it in industry, education, or research as much as we need it.  And certainly we hear about enough scandals in the leadership of our churches, that we know we lack it there.  But as a minimum, let us develop a means of selection that ensures the men and women we pick to lead our various institutions, especially our churches, are indeed qualified in the basic requirements suggested to Moses by Jethro.
Recommendation No. 7 Place these selected individuals over others as leaders.  Jethro realized the importance of delegation of authority.  Many top managers and lots of pastors do not.  Not only is delegation important for the person that you are giving an opportunity to show his/her leadership skills and to be aptly occupied in contributing to the process or the end product/goal, but as we see from the recommendations of Jethro that follow, it is also a God-given instruction that is good for the delegator.
Recommendation No. 8 Establish a governance structure, especially where the numbers are large.  Jethro recommended that Moses put these able leaders in charge of ten others (a good span of control as we call it in the Human Resources field), and then add leaders at higher levels appropriately so that all the work will get done and each person will have someone that is taking care of them even if they are a leader themselves.  This works for churches as well.  Imagine the pastor being responsible for the welfare, development and spiritual and personal oversight of ten associate pastors or elders, who each are responsible for ten other church volunteer leaders/families, and so on throughout the whole congregation.  Nobody would fall through the cracks.  If you were away one week, you would get a call from your leader who did not see you on Sunday.  He/she would know whether you were okay or sick, or just angry, etc.  Through a system akin to this, the whole church could be cared for.   People would feel responsible for their charges and all of us would be cared for.
Recommendation No. 9 Let these leaders actually make decisions (judgments) that involve the people, within their scope of authority and responsibility and let them escalate more critical decisions up the line to the top.  This was great advice from Jethro to Moses.  This is the principle upon which much of our decision-making takes place, whether it is in our businesses or our military.  In fact, our court system works in the same way, with the added process of appeals that can be made to a higher court by the litigants.  Moses could not possibly make every decision for all the Israelites.  A senior pastor cannot possibly make every decision for every program or ministry in his/her church.  Unfortunately, some try.
Recommendation No. 10 Let these leaders bear the burden of leadership with you.  People want to be well utilized.  People want to help their leader, their boss, and their pastor.  Let them.  You do not have to be a superhero all by yourself.  I have always felt that a leader that wants to do it all by his or herself, is getting awfully close to being an autocrat, rather than a motivator and influencer.
The Benefits of Heeding Jethro’s Recommendations  Jethro basically said to his son-in-law Moses that if he followed his recommendations (obeyed his instructions), he will end up enduring as a leader.  He will last longer, he will be able to withstand the pressures of leadership, he will enjoy his work, and above all, he will not burnout.  But note Jethro was not just asking Moses to obey him simply because he was his father-in-law.  No, rather Jethro says you only need to obey me if “God so commands you”.  That says a lot about how we should decide whether or not to obey someone who appears to give us wise counsel.  But it also says a lot of the wise counsel giver.  Moses had to know his father-in-law’s advice was in accordance with God’s will for his own life.  And Jethro knew that if God did not agree with what he was telling Moses, his advice would be of no real help.
But not only was Moses to benefit from advice that agrees with God’s desire for his life as a leader, but the text goes on to say through the words of Jethro that the people will be benefit as well for they shall live in peace.  Is that not the goal of every leader for each of his followers – that they should live in peace and prosper?
If you are a leader today – in a business or in a church, adopt Jethro as your own personal counselor and heed his advice.  Take a look at his ten recommendations and see if there is any area in your leadership that could benefit from your application of his sound and Godly advice.

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