A blog for leaders by NewHope staff and friends

The Source of King David’s Mojo

The Source of King David’s Mojo

David, King of ancient Israel, was one of the most inspirational leaders to walk the earth. People rallied to him, sang his praise and joined his cause. He had what leaders want. How did he get it?

Take a look at David’s dynamism. He lopped off Goliath’s head and won the hearts of the people. He moulded a band of brigands and drifters into a private army of mighty men, any one of whom would readily have died for him. Some 600 fugitives gravitated to him in the desert and he figured out how to care for them all. He consolidated the tribes and established a nation. He once danced so passionately in a public festival that his spirit of praise infected the whole assembly and everyone joined the worship. Following a civil war, in which his own son betrayed him, he reconstructed the nation and renewed its future hope. And he achieved so profound a place in Israel’s memory that the rest of the bible and Jewish history never forget him.

David made lots of mistakes. Enormous, repugnant mistakes that would completely undo many contemporary leaders. But he rebounded with courage and humility. He had extraordinary leadership mojo. He did three things worth understanding and imitating.

David leaned into his calling boldly. True leadership capacity comes from vocational alignment. Trying to fake it is draining and demoralising. This is the key difference between King Saul and King David. Saul was a photoshopped model for a Fortune 500 CEO. He was better looking and taller than everyone else. But he was no leader. He was insecure and aggressive. He was vocationally misaligned. In time everyone could see it and many paid a high price because of it.

King David on the other hand was the youngest son of Jesse and was nearly overlooked by Samuel who came to anoint Saul’s successor. David was handsome enough but he didn’t have “the look”. What he did have was “the call”.

David never strained to be a famous king. He didn’t push for the job, it came to him. That’s not to say he lacked ambition or drive. He strategised to have a long and fruitful kingship. But he didn’t have to sell his soul to stay in charge. In old age he is still surprised and grateful that God elevated him to leadership. This is the spirit that makes a leader great.

Vocational calling is a snug fit. The daily work is not easy or comfortable, but there is a rightness to it. This alignment is the fruit of taking each step obediently, maximising the opportunities, accepting risks and evaluating at every turn. It requires great faith when we are young and great courage as we age. Find your fit and embrace your call, push-in doing all that is required and more, and very soon you will inspire the people you lead. If you find it necessary to bully, connive, threaten and force others, something is wrong. Get another job and be happy. Leadership is very hard, but when it answers to a vocational calling it rises over time and the people you serve flourish with you.

David leaned into his faith passionately. He nurtured an intimate God-life which propelled his leadership effectiveness. It didn’t make him perfect, but it gave him resources to keep going through hardship and to recover after failure.

How many leaders do you know who have published their prayer journals? David wrote, sang, complied and presented his public and personal prayers. The Psalms are the continuing record. David’s bond with God was raw, real and reliable. It was a crucial element of his leadership construct.

He loved his bible, which was the first five books of our bible today. He read, studied, memorised, meditated and lived by the words of God. He listened for God’s living word to him. He wrote a literary masterpiece in praise of God’s word. It is a beautiful acrostic poem (Ps 119) written to thank God for speaking. How many mega-leaders do you know whose NY Times bestseller is a poem in celebration of God’s word?

David was deeply spiritual. His vitality as a leader emanated from a divine connection. This made him wise, bold, repentant, generous and humble. He was known as a man after God’s own heart!

David let others lean into his leadership space and meddle. The default mode for many leaders is self-sufficiency. We may not say it out loud, but others can hear when we are thinking: “No thanks, I don’t need your help or advice.” If you want to be inspirational, let good people intrude on your leadership privacy. David did.

Every leader needs a Nathan or two! He was a bold advisor (a prophet) who held up a mirror to the disgusting mess in the king’s personal life. David’s choice to have sex with the wife of his faithful military aide, have the aide killed because David got her pregnant, and then try to cover everything up, was a selfish and morally bankrupt abuse. Leadership character has an unexpected impact on the bottom-line of every enterprise. Who is in your leadership space with power to get in your face? Who will be a Nathan for you?

May God bless you with many an Abigal. She was the wife of a greedy fool who made David so angry he mobilised his troops to march against him. Abigal, who had little time for her husband’s folly, saw immediately that David’s ramped-up wrath would serve him very poorly. So she packed some bread, poured some wine and met him in the ravine with some advice. “Don’t do this thing! You’ll regret it.” What is significant, is that David was able to listen. He let this wise woman lean into his leadership space. She saved him from a costly blunder.

Joab, commander of Israel’s army, confronted David at yet another critical moment. David simply lost the plot when the pressures of leadership, the pain of family dysfunction and the weight of personal loss overwhelmed him. He was sulking in his tent while the nation was unravelling. Joab blasted him. “You are humiliating your men. You hate those who love you and love those who hate you. You don’t care. Now get out there and encourage your men! If you don’t it will be worse than all the calamities from your youth till now.” Tough words. Good call. It saved the day. When David stepped up, despite his pain, the people rallied. He couldn’t have done it without Joab.

Truly inspiring leaders are never self-contained. We all need prodding, correcting and encouraging. Let good people lean into your leadership space.

The secret of David’s leadership capacity is all three of these insights working in harmony. He is pursuing a call, leaning into God and letting wise people confront him. He gets it wrong as often as anyone, but when he gets it right his leadership just seems to go higher and higher.

What David has, you can have. Lean in!

Posted by Allan Demond in LEADERSHIP, 0 comments
The Power of Plodding

The Power of Plodding

I attended a 10 year celebration last week* and a beautiful thought confronted me. You can get an awful lot of very important stuff done in 10 years if you just keep plodding.

Plodders do unimpressive things, an impressive number of times. Some write a few paragraphs daily or read a few books monthly, others save a few dollars each pay day or ride a few kilometres six times a week … and before you know it plodders are published, educated, well to do and fit.

If you strike one well-placed blow with a sharp axe against the truck of a big tree every day, you WILL fell the tree. It is only a matter of time. But you have to swing every day. That’s the plodder’s genius.

A decade is 3652.42199 days. That’s long enough to learn a language, become a world expert in a field of interest, meet 1000 new people, or walk around the world (almost, see Jean Beliveau’s story).

Plodding is the art of finding hidden pleasure in pedestrian things. Plodders never out grow the child-like capacity to play keep-a-boo or dropsies, they simply learn to do it with new and bolder tasks.

It took Einstein 10 years to get from special relativity to general relativity. Julia Childs laboured a full decade to get “Mastering the Art of French Cooking” out of her heart and into the hands of gourmet chefs around the world. And even the musical genius Mozart was 10 years at his craft before he produced a work that actually became popular. These aren’t the first people we think of when we make a list of plodders, but they all belong on the list!

Some 200 years ago William Carey summed up the substantial achievements of his life in these words to his nephew: “I can plod. I can persevere in any definite pursuit. To this I owe everything.”

Oh Lord, give me the gift of a plodder’s resolve, I pray. Amen.

*The 10th Anniversary I attended was for the NewHope Baptist Chinese Ministry. Congratulations to James and Rebekah Lin, the leadership team and the people of this great ministry. We love and appreciate you!


Posted by Allan Demond in LEADERSHIP, 0 comments
6 Leadership Insights I Learned From Kevin Rudd

6 Leadership Insights I Learned From Kevin Rudd

I’m no political analyst. I am a pastor with a love for God, love for others and a passion to serve the world. I think Kevin Rudd shares these values. I don’t agree with everything, but I think he did some good during his time in the lime-light. I know it was not easy!

He visited NewHope in 2011. We were all impressed with his razor sharp intellect, winsome persona and commitment to issues of global justice. Here’s a few things I learned from K Rudd (the good and the bad) concerning leadership .

Say “Sorry!” His Sorry Speech was a brilliant piece of leadership. It did enormous good. We’ll remember this for a long time. There is great power in an apology. And you don’t have to be the one who did the wrong to help make it right. Pastors should be artists of the “sorry”. We could all use the word a bit more often!

Change your voice slowly. When Kevin “flipped” regarding the definition of marriage he left many of his supporters confused (I was one). I have no idea how long he wrestled in private but it was a break-neck turn in public. We didn’t see much anguish of heart in the search for truth and so it looked like political expedience. Pastors should change their minds over the course of a ministry but we should do it with open dialogue and a bit of visible wrestling. We’ll still disappoint people but they’ll know our hearts.

Read theology. Kevin is a Dietrich Bonhoeffer scholar. He reads N.T. Wright (he told me so himself). He thinks deeply about the ideas that undergird his policy commitments. This doesn’t make a person right all the time, but it does make our leadership powerful. We pastors will lead better when we read, study and think more.

Control your temper. That swearing thing wasn’t very impressive. I’m willing to cut Kevin some slack here. Even greater luminaries lost their temper (e.g. Moses). But it’s bad form and bad leadership. I do wonder if it’s partly why he did not enter the “promised land”.

Hang in there! What a bumpy ride Kevin endured. Twice PM, twice expelled. Loved and unloved. Hailed as great and derided as evil. He quit his seat in Parliament, but I’d be surprised if he’s done. He’s a stayer and that’s impressive. It takes guts to fall down in public and get up ready to lead again. That’s what Pastors MUST do.

Hold your evaluation. Kevin Rudd is stepping down. Most of his story is untold. I for one wish his term in politics could have been more productive. I think he is a good man whose gifts didn’t gain the traction they might have. I actually know lots of pastors who are in exactly that situation. God’s judgement of these things is different. I choose not to pronounce a final word on his life or mine or yours – not yet.

I hope Kevin can enjoy time with family, move on to new things and serve Australia in new ways with his considerable leadership ability and wisdom. All the best Kevin!

Posted by Allan Demond in LEADERSHIP, 0 comments