In Exodus, there’s a classic story about Moses and his father-in-law, Jethro. I call Jethro the first management consultant in the Bible.
Moses bragged to Jethro about all the amazing things that had happened through his leadership—taking the children of Israel through the Dead Sea and then watching their enemies drown before their eyes. The Bible doesn’t say whether Moses took the time to play with his children or spend time with his wife or work on his marriage and his family; there’s nothing in there about that. We are left to our imaginations. We do know that Moses sent his wife and his kids away to live with the in-laws because he was so busy doing the work of God. His father-in-law sent him a message: “Moses, I’m coming back to see you and, by the way, I’m bringing your family with me” (see Exod. 18:6).
Then, Jethro truly got the picture of why Moses was so busy—too busy for his family. All day long, people lined up to get advice from him. The line was out the doorway of the tent and around the block. When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?" (v. 14). Can you imagine? People stood around all day waiting for Moses to solve their problems. That’s a leader with a problem. Jethro looked at Moses and said, “What you are doing is not good” (v. 17).
The advice from Jethro to Moses was clear. It is great advice for all of us. He told Moses to build a team and learn to delegate (vv. 21-23). He would lighten his load by sharing it with others. Jethro basically said, “You need to appoint other people to help you. You don’t have to be a control freak; you alone don’t have to do everything. You have to spread the load. You have to build a team. You have to be able to spend time with your family. You have to have time off. You’re going to burn yourself out.”
Can you imagine how stressed out Moses was and how frustrated all these people were as they waited in line to see him? They would be happy to talk to somebody else to get their conflicts resolved or their problems answered. Jethro helped Moses learn to be team-centered in his leadership. The coolest thing is “Moses listened to his father-in-law and did everything he said” (v. 24.). Unlike many leaders, Moses actually learned and changed his leadership habits.
There’s not a single one of us who doesn’t have areas in which we need to grow. Remember the “L” in LEADERSHIP, the first of the ten critical characteristics every new leader must master: Be a good listener and a lifelong learner.