When I was studying the Book of Ezra (and I don't know why, but I think it originally had something to do with my attention being drawn to a specific verse, Ezra 7:10, which in turn piqued my interest and led me to a long study) I have learned many lessons that have been personally valuable for my spiritual growth. In addition, however, I also identified a significant number of lessons that I felt were particularly applicable to leadership, especially Christian leadership. One of the leadership lessons I noticed concerned Ezra's approach to team leadership.
I think it helps to think about the whole context: The Book of Ezra describes some of the events surrounding two stages of the Israelites' return to Jerusalem. The first phase involved a group returning to rebuild the temple and the second (nearly 60 years later) involved a smaller group returning to rebuild the spiritual condition of the people. Ezra, believed to be the author of the entire book, is actually only specifically involved in the return of the second group, described in chapters 7 through 10. More specifically, chapters 7 and 8 describe Ezra's preparation for this return, the establishment of his team, and the fulfillment of the mission entrusted to him. Applied to the team leadership lessons, this points to the three components of a team that emerge throughout these chapters: the team leader, the team, and the team leader.
Chapter 7 introduces us to team leader Ezra and clarifies his preparation for leadership in verse 10, which says, “For Ezra had determined to seek and do the law of the Lord and to teach statutes. and laws. Regulations in Israel" (The Bible: New King James Version, 1979). As I explained in a previous article ("Before you can do that, you need to know’), this verse points to a sequential three-stage developmental process that I believe is essential to the development of any individual Christian leader. The first step is "learn.” In general, every team leader needs to know the history and context of the organization, the strengths and characteristics of the team members, and understand the problems to be faced. But on a deeper (and more important) spiritual level, the Christian must learn to know God. You need regular, intimate time with God because that gives you thatCapabilitylead The second step is "live.” This means that the manager's actions must authentically reflect what has been learned. He needs to “lead by example” and demonstrate consistency between values and actions, and that gives him thatcredibilityLeading Only after you have deepened your relationship with God, and then applied and reflected upon God's truth in your life, can you move on to step three, vizto leadto teach, to lead and to show others the way.
Chapter 8 introduces us to the team, specifically in verses 15 through 18. Here we see that before Ezra began or proceeded with a task, he took some time to look at the people around him and assemble his team. The first thing he noticed was what his team lacked: spiritual leaders (“I looked among the people and the priests and I didn't find any of the sons of Levi there”). The rest of the team consisted of two different people. Groups: 1) those he described as "leaders," those who had already demonstrated effective leadership skills and experience, and 2) those he described as "people of understanding," or those with a gift of discernment and the understanding who would be counselors and counselors (the term "understanding" is the same term used to describe the wisdom and discernment given to Solomon in 1 Kings 3:9-12). With these two pieces of the team in place, Ezra selected a spiritual guide, and one with discretion, before laying out the plan for the mission. Ezra knew he had to do it, as Peter Northhouse explains inLeadership: theory and practice(2013), the right number and mix to have an effective team. As such, he was keen on bringing together a mix of people to meet specific mission requirements, reflecting the idea that "more cohesive and successful teams have a broader range of strengths". (Rath & Conchie, 2008, p. 22) He didn't move forward until he had the right team, a team willing to submit to God and follow Ezra's lead. In the words of Jim Collins, he "put the right people on the bus, got the wrong people off the bus, escorted the right people to the right places, and then [he] figured out where to go." (2011, page 124)
This brings us to the final piece of this puzzle: team leadership, which is presented in chapter 8, verses 21-31. Esra had prepared and assembled the right people for his team, and now they had a mission to accomplish. Although the task was performed by the team and not an individual, as the leader of this team he knew it was his responsibility to ensure they met the objective efficiently and there were four components he brought to this leadership. First, he set an example, especially a spiritual example, in demeanor and humility in acknowledging God's sovereignty in his work (verses 21-23). He then assigned responsibilities, divided up the resources for his team to carry, and gave them his instructions (verses 24-30). Third, He motivated them by reminding them who they were and the greatness of their task (verse 28). Finally, he preserved the unity of the group by undertaking the mission together (verse 31).
As a Christian leader, these are significant and important lessons for your leadership development. First, recognize and consciously submit to God's sovereign agency, purpose, and process in your life, team, and task. Make sure, and this is absolutely critical, that you aggressively seek an intimate relationship with God and live a life that is consistent with God's truth. Deliberately gather around you the right people, including those with leadership and wisdom, but most importantly, include spiritual leaders who are humble and committed to God. Then, and only then, lead your team.
Collins, J (2011). Level 5 Leadership: The triumph of humility and fierce determinationHBR's 10 must-reads on leadership(Seiten 115-136). Boston, MA: Harvard Business Review Press.
The Bible: New King James Version. (1979). Nashville, Tennessee: Thomas Nelson, Inc.
Northhouse, PG (2013).Leadership: theory and practice(6ª ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications.
Rath, T. und Conchie, B. (2008).Strengths-Based Leadership: Great leaders, teams and why people follow. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Nova York, Nova York: Gallup Press.
This is part four in an ongoing series of leadership lessons to be learned from the book of Ezra.
- Steve Moore
Steve Moore is executive producer and co-host of the MoneyWise radio show. After a brief career in the music industry, Steve swapped his drumsticks for a microphone. Steve worked at several commercial and non-commercial (NPR) radio stations before joining Larry Burkett at Christian Financial Concepts (CFC) in 1985.