The Dark Side of Leadership

In the Old Testament book Judges, there is a Hunger Games like scenario going on in Israel. The Midianites had been suffocating the 12 tribes of Israel through brute force and the supply control of food and resources. Israel had grown used to hiding their crops, animals and property for fear they would be raided and destroyed by the ruthless Midianites.

In the midst of this oppression, God raises up a deliverer named Gideon. When we first meet Gideon he’s fearful, skeptical and the least likely candidate for leadership. He grew up in one of the smallest and weakest clans in Israel.  (Judges 6:11-15)  Frankly, Gideon had far fewer leadership qualifications than Katniss Everdeen. At least she was a skilled archer.

This is exactly what makes his story so incredible. God uses an unlikely leader (Gideon) to lead an overmatched army (300 men) to defeat a fierce and imposing enemy (the Midianite army numbering several thousand). Gideon was obedient to the LORD’s instructions and victory was Israel’s!  (Judges 7)

Years of oppression ended. Israel could live without fear and enjoy peace and prosperity.  Surely this would lead to a ticker tape parade in Gideon’s honor, right?  Maybe the main street in Jerusalem would be named after him? Well, Gideon returned from battle and there met him a group of men from his neighboring tribe. They said to Gideon:

What is this that you have done to us, not to call us when you went to fight against Midian?” And they accused him fiercely. (Judges 8:1 emphasis mine)

Welcome home Gideon. Welcome to leadership. Leadership sometimes comes with glory, prestige, and privilege. But you can’t have the good without the bad. If you’re a leader moving any group, organization, business, church or whatever forward – criticism will come, some of it will be unfair. When unfair criticism comes we can learn a lesson from Gideon in how to handle it.

But Gideon replied, “What have I done compared to you? Why, even the gleanings of Ephraim are superior to the vintage of Abiezer. God gave you Midian’s commanders, Oreb and Zeeb. What have I done compared with you?”  When they heard this, they calmed down and cooled off.

Gideon and his three hundred arrived at the Jordan and crossed over. They were bone-tired but still pressing the pursuit(Judges 8:2-5 MSG)

Gideon shrugged it off and kept on moving forward. Gideon did cower to it. He didn’t internalize it. He didn’t let it derail the mission. He didn’t get in a long, drawn out argument. He shrugged it off, and pressed forward.

When unfair criticism comes (and it will if you’re a leader), do like Gideon – shrug it off and move forward.

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