Forbes magazine publishes annual lists of the most powerful, most notable, wealthiest, or most innovative people. I usually read these lists to learn about the most influential individuals globally. I recently read about a leader in antiquity who would have been on one of Forbes lists. He went through one of the world’s best education systems, lived and navigated the world’s most influential political system, and was prepared to lead nations until a crisis. While many fit this profile, I’m referring to Moses. He matriculated through the Egyptian educational system and was raised under the leadership of Pharoah. There were no barriers to his ascension to a global leadership position in the family business until that day when he attempted to take matters into his own hands. This led to him distancing himself from everything he had known for survival.
During his time away from Egypt, Moses traveled to Midian, where he married, had children, and began serving in another family business under the leadership of Jethro. During this season of Moses’ development, Jethro became a trusted confidant to Moses before Moses freed the Hebrew people from Pharoah’s reign. While Moses continued his anointed work, some close to him were growing concerned…
Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, the priest of Midian, heard about everything God had done for Moses and his people, the Israelites. He heard especially about how the Lord had rescued them from Egypt. The next day, Moses took his seat to hear the people’s disputes against each other. They waited before him from morning till evening. When Moses’ father-in-law saw all Moses was doing for the people, he asked, “What are you really accomplishing here? Why are you trying to do all this alone while everyone stands around you from morning till evening?” … “This is not good!” Moses’ father-in-law exclaimed. “You’re going to wear yourself out—and the people, too. This job is too heavy a burden for you to handle all by yourself. (Exodus 18:1, 13-14, 17-18)
As I stated earlier, Moses’ resume would have made him one of the world’s most influential and powerful global leaders. Yet, Jethro observed his leadership style and said emphatically, “It is not good!” Jethro then explains why because Moses was doing it all by himself. He had left his family behind, handled all the disputes and decisions, and was probably convinced, given his success, that it was working. He was subscribing to an Egyptian leadership philosophy in which he had been educated and groomed.
What’s ironic about Moses’ leadership style is that many leaders in civic, religious, and business positions still emulate him. According to the Harvard Business Review, half of the CEOs surveyed express loneliness, 61% of which believe loneliness hinders their job performance. After all these years and information about leadership, many succumb to the temptation to do it alone.
‘Showing Up’ through Contact Work
The good news? There is a way to serve leaders plagued by this issue. It can be summed up by a concept I learned as a volunteer in Young Life: CONTACT WORK. Like Jethro to Moses, we must show up where we are and earn the right to be heard. And that’s what we do at RLF through our Social Enterprise Academy (SEA). The SEA platform emulates Jethro by providing coaching and consultation to executives, entrepreneurs, and church leadership. To see communities flourish, one of our strategies is to come alongside leaders like Moses, earn the right to be heard, offer space to be transparent, then provide tools and accountability for them to mobilize teams to fulfill their mission and join us in building a just society.
In the future, when Forbes makes another list, I hope there is a new category called “Liberating Leaders,” which comprises those working to build cultures that empower everyone around them to treat everyone and everything with dignity, respect, and care.