“Deborah . . . was a leader” (Judges 4:4)
Because I live in Alabama, I especially enjoyed reading a news story in the July 12 issue of the Birmingham News. Two Birmingham area natives, Jessica and Derek Simmons, were spending time with their family near the M.B. Miller County Pier in Panama City, Florida. The Simmons had moved to Panama City last year.
Jessica’s splashing in the water got interrupted by the sight of flashing police lights at the boardwalk. Everyone’s attention stayed focused on something out in the water. Riptide currents had carried several swimmers out into deeper waters.
Jessica and Derek quickly went into action coordinating a rescue plan. Derek, along with several other persons, formed a human chain. Jessica swam out on a body board, and reached the 9 swimmers struggling to stay afloat. (The swimmers included a grandmother and 2 small children.)
By this time, the human chain had stretched more than 100 yards. Jessica, Derek, and others began pulling the 9 persons onto the board and pushing them toward the human chain. The drama lasted about an hour. The good news—every person had been saved from the riptide currents and possible drowning.
I would say that Derek and Jessica showed great leadership, wouldn’t you? And can you even imagine the hope those drowning persons felt when they saw people coming to help rescue them? John Gardner once said, “The task of leadership is to keep hope alive.”
The Bible, in Judges 4, provides an example of a woman who knew the vital connection between effective leadership and hope. Her name was Deborah. Before I go farther let me get something out of the way.
You might be saying to yourself, “But I’m not a leader. I am more of a follower. Yet, if you are a parent, a spouse, a coach, a supervisor, a grandparent, a teacher at church or school, or have even the least bit of responsibility, you are in a leadership role. The reason is because you are in a position of influence, and leaders influence people.
Deborah served as a judge in ancient Israel. Judges then were mostly military leaders. During Deborah’s day, God’s people had fallen into the hands of Jabin, a Canaanite king who had an oppressing army equipped with 900 iron chariots. God’s people cried out for help, so God raised up a deliverer, Deborah.
To keep Deborah’s story short, she came up with a battle plan. She would lure Jabin’s army to a nearby river. One thousand of Israel’s soldiers were to head to a nearby mountain. This exciting story ends with the words, “On that day God subdued Jabin” (see Judges 4:23-24). Deborah had given effective leadership, and also had imparted some hope.
So, how can you, in your personal leadership role(s), give some hope to the people in your circles of influence?
- Be a person of hope yourself. Hope doesn’t come just from positive thinking or an optimistic attitude, though those qualities have some merit. Primarily, hope comes from the promises God makes to us in the Bible. A Bible promise is where God has said He will do something. We believe His promises, and the result is that our lives are filled with hope. To be a hopeful person, then, you should read and study the Bible more, look for verses in the Bible that are promises from God.
- Evaluate your EQ (emotional quotient). How emotionally intelligent are you? Emotionally intelligent people have the ability to manage their own emotions, and to understand the feelings of others. Emotionally intelligent people think before they act on their feelings. They are in tune with how they feel, but they do not let their emotions rule their lives. You will find any number of EQ inventories and assessments online. Take several, and see how you score. If you don’t score well, you know you have some work to do on your personal emotional intelligence.
- Be an encourager. A word of encouragement offered at the right time can do wonders. Everyone faces challenges and difficulties. Your timely encouragement can help life those people out of their ruts.
I don’t think I can overstate the role of hope in your personal leadership. Inspiring hope in other people is a critical skill for all leaders. These words from Martin Luther King cause us to think: “Everything that is done in the world is done by hope.”