Charlton Heston as Moses (left) and Eduard Franz as Jethro. The Ten Commandments directed by Cecil B. DeMille. © 1956 Paramount Pictures.
We might think that leadership seminars are an invention of modern business and that they are new to the management landscape. But, the first workplace in-service seminar might be found in the second book of the Bible.
In the eighteenth chapter of Exodus, Moses goes to his father-in-law, Jethro, in search of advice. After listening to Moses’ story of all that has happened and observing Moses’ interactions with the people Israel, Jethro shares with him some wise advice about true leadership. He points out that being a leader does not mean that you do everything for your people. Rather, Jethro entreats Moses to “enlighten [the people Israel] in regards to the statutes and instructions, showing them how to conduct themselves and what they are to do” (Exod. 18:20). Jethro believes Moses should empower the people. He also advises Moses to pass on some of the responsibilities to others, telling him that “you should look among all the people for able and God-fearing men, trustworthy men…and set them over the people as commanders” (Exod. 18:21). Jethro goes on to say that these trusted men will take care of lesser duties but that in “every important case they should refer to you” (Exod. 18:22). Talk about a leader surrounding himself with good people…
This passage brings to light, as do leadership gurus today, that leaders need to empower their people. Real leaders guide their people, help them to grow, and set good examples. Wise and authentic leaders don’t act as babysitters or micromanagers but rather teachers and mentors who know when to hold tight the reigns and when to let loose. Some of the best leaders are those who are humble, servant leaders.