After two thousand years of being scattered around the world, the Israelites, God’s chosen people were finally able to come back to their historic home. When they finally settled in and formed a new government, they decided to have as their national symbol a flag with the Star of David prominently displayed in the center.
One has to ask, of all the great and mighty leaders that have come and gone in the history of ancient Israel, they opted to have David as the symbol of unity, strength, resiliency, courage and above all integrity for the newly formed nation. This paper will look into the life of David and how he has risen from anonymity and transformed himself to become the most effective general and political leader Israel has ever known.
Based on what can be gleaned from the Bible, David did not come from royalty. But his family could not also be considered as dirt poor since his grandparents according to the Book of Ruth owned land. Nevertheless, David had to work as a shepherd boy to help augment the income of his family. They also have no servants because when it was time to seek news and provide supplies to his brothers in the war front, David’s father asked his youngest son to travel instead of asking a trusted male servant to the job.
The above-mentioned information is very important because it must be established that David was not groomed as a leader. It also provides contrast to the current situation in the 21st century where people are more aware of leadership quality traits and that schools and leadership programs are being established to replicate good leaders. But it was not the case with David.
It can be argued that David was thrust into the limelight so to speak and he did not plot his way to the throne of Israel. When he visited his brothers, he witnessed and heard and unusual sight – the people of God cowered in fear against a man-giant called Goliath. The 8-foot plus warrior was taunting and blaspheming the Israelites and Yahweh respectively. His young heart could not take the insults and so he decided to do something about it and the rest as they say is history.
21 Laws of Leadership
The fact that David did not consciously desired to be king and the fact that his family did not actively encouraged him to set his sights so high can be a very good starting point for studying the 21 laws of leadership. If Maxwell was right then even ancient peoples practiced these principles. If this study provides proof that an ancient leader such as David did indeed – consciously or unconsciously – sought out the benefits of these principles then at the end of this study one can conclude that John Maxwell was right to say that these principles are indeed irrefutable.
The following pages describes Maxwell’s laws of leadership as seen in the life of David:
A. The Law of the Lid- Leadership ability determines a person’s level of effectiveness
David did not enroll in leadership school. His was a training program found in the wilderness. It was not formal but he desired to perfect the little talent that he had and from here he accelerated faster than the others did. During this time all he knew was three skills. The first one was to tend sheep; the second one is the ability to ward off predators using a slingshot and stick; and finally the ability to play the harp
B. The Law of Process- Leadership develops daily, not in a day
There were others who probably knew the same skills set as David but he became an expert in the little things on a daily basis he practiced the playing of the harp and the dead aim of a slingshot-shooter able to scare away lions and bears. He kept plugging on it until his fame grew as a young boy eager to please his father and also as a budding musician skillful with the harp.
Because of constantly desiring excellence even in the little things, David was rewarded in his efforts. The news of a good musician skilled in the art of providing happiness to a gloomy heart reached the ears of a depressed King Saul. This was the beginning of an accelerated development process for David. On the part of David, it is very probable that he was not there absentmindedly fiddling with the harp but actively soaking it in learning all that he could.
Now, the young is not only learning about the ways of sheep, lions, and bear he is also beginning to get an insight into the ways of a leader in the times when he was called into the palace. During this time, David had insider information as to how a government should be run. There were only a few young men given the privilege of doing so.
C. The Law of Intuition- Leaders evaluate everything with a leadership bias
There were many examples in his life when one can see this principle regarding intuition is in full display. The first one is when he faced Goliath. David did not grandstand or acted foolish as was suggested by his brothers. God knew what was going on, David was prompted by something so profound that no one in the whole camp was able to understand except this young man.
The leader’s intuition was first displayed here when David refused to back down from a blasphemer and instead asked permission to go to battle with the giant. The second time this intuition was on display was when David refused to glory in humiliating Saul and finally when his enemy was killed he did not gloat and showed tremendous restraint choosing instead to mourn the former ruler of Israel. In this way David demonstrated a leadership bias and not merely someone following the dictates of emotions.
D. The Law of Influence- The true measure of leadership is influence
When David decided to become a dutiful son he immediately became an influence in his region. He was well known and it is the reason why he was brought to the palace of the king. Yet his influence grew even more in his association with the king. Finally his capacity to influence others grew exponentially when he destroyed Goliath.
This capability was in full display when was able to convince the King that the whole nation should put their trust in him, knowing fully well that if he failed then Israel will be enslaved by the Philistines. His ability to influence grew as he was considered as Israel’s new hero.
The Adult Years
In the second phase of his life, David finds himself married, a successful career in the military and serving a delusional king, severely depressed and jealous of his success. It was at this time when he was driven out of the palace and he survived by living in caves. It is also at this point in his life when one can observe the following leadership principles come into play:
1. The Law of E.F. Hutton- When a real leader speaks, people listen
2. The Law of Respect- People naturally follow leaders stronger than themselves
3. The Law of Magnetism- Who you are is who you attract
4.The Law of Solid Ground- Trust is the foundation of leadership
5. The Law of Empowerment- Only secure leaders give powers to others
6. The Law of Connection- Leaders touch a heart before they ask for a hand
The people that he met – during the time when he was Public Enemy No. 1 – were acknowledged to be fugitives like David. Many were the dirty dregs of society and the Israeli military would love nothing but their capture. Yet it was from this group that David handpicked his future leaders and used it as the core to create one of the most feared armed forces in the history of ancient warfare (1 Sam. 22).
This could only happen if David was able to practice the 8 leadership principles listed above, including those mentioned previously. The desperate men gathered in the caves listened to David because they believe in him and they respect him because they sense that he is a man of inner strength. They probably heard that he was the one who had slain the giant while he (David) was still in puberty. They may have also figured out that Saul is hunting him down though he is innocent.
So they were attracted to him because like them he has full of potential but circumstances conspired to make him a lesser man. It is also because of David’s loyalty to Saul – in spite of the king’s ingratitude – that made the people feel that they can trust this young man. So by training them and teaching them how to behave like a disciplined military unit, he was able to touch their inner being and he was able to empower them.
The following principles are evident even before he was making a push to ascend the throne of Israel. But it was only when he reached manhood when David was mature enough to display the following:
E. The Law of Navigation- Anyone can steer the ship, but it takes a leader to chart the course
For many years, David was living in a remote outpost far from Saul. But when Saul was dead he knew that the best step is to go to the capital and claim what was rightfully his according to the late prophet Samuel.
F. The Law of The Big Mo- Momentum is a leader’s best friend
David allowed his organization, his small band of men to gather momentum. There is no use charging a fortified target if the group is not yet ready. Momentum was building for years and when he was ready he made it known that it was time to go to Jerusalem.
G. The Law of Timing- When to lead is as important as what to do and where to go
Those who are eager enough to seize power and those who are foolish enough to charge in without being sensitive to what is happening all around him is not a good leader. David demonstrated his knack for timing when he did not immediately enter Jerusalem after Saul’s death. He waited until he has gathered enough support – until his army is ready to face whatever it is that the enemy can throw against them.
H. The Law of Production- It takes a leader to raise up a leader
One of the main reasons why David was able to establish a strong government can be attributed to his ability to raise up leaders. He was able to train former fugitives who used to have no direction in life until he stepped in and intervened in their behalf. The result was awesome, a multitude of military leaders were equipped and made ready for battle.
I. The Law of Buy-In- People buy into the leader and then the vision
Aside from leading a band of former fugitives to capture Jerusalem and other key areas in the Promised Land, the vision that David provided for his men were almost impossible to achieve. The men who went with him in pursuit of the dream have to believe first in David before they could follow him into harm’s way.
J. The Law of the Inner Circle- A leader’s potential is determined by those closest to him
It is important to note that David’s capability can also be determined by the caliber of people that he surrounds himself with. According to 2Sam 16 it was not only efficient military commanders that comprise David’s inner circle but also religious men who are also an important component of Israel society.
K. The Law of Victory- Leaders find a way for the team to win
David, it seems, can find the solution to his problem in just the nick of time. He saw the weakness in Goliath’s armor and he was well aware of his enemies weaknesses and strength allowing him to become Israel’s’ most victorious military strategist.
L. The Law of Priorities- Leaders understand that activity is not necessarily accomplishment
When Absalom, David’s son decided to rebel against his father and tried to usurp the kingdom, David did the unthinkable. He retreated and crossed the Jordan. He saw no reason to fight Absalom and engage him head on. He was criticized by this act but he demonstrated that it is not only ruthless action that can win wars.
M. The Law of Sacrifice- A leader must give up to go up
It is too many to count the times when David decided to sacrifice something in order to win. The first time that he demonstrated this is by obeying his father and doing all the tedious work needed to support his family. The second incident is when he decided to run away rather than to stage a coup against his King Saul.
N.The Law of Explosive Growth- To add growth, lead followers-to multiply, lead leaders
In the earlier part of his reign David was able to grow the army in size and potency in warfare. David has at least thirty chiefs responsible for hundreds of men. On top of this there are many that defected to David to increase further the strength of his army.
O. The Law of Legacy - A leader's lasting value is measured by succession
Before he died, David left the Kingdom of Israel into the hands of capable men. One of them is Solomon who grew up to lead Israel into its golden age. But there is perhaps no other legacy that David left behind than to prepare a bloodline from which Jesus Christ will come from.
Even though the 21 laws of leadership was a modern take at leadership principles and values; it is clear to see that ancient men were able to observe and practice them. One of the ancient rulers who benefited greatly from the wisdom of the 21 laws is a young man called David. He was once a shepherd boy who grew up to become one of the most beloved and one of the most accomplished military general and ruler of Israel.
Maxwell, J. (2007). The 21 Irrefutable Laws of Leadership.
Retrieved from: Accessed 17 September 2007.
Holy Bible. (2005) Today’s New International Version. CO: International Bible Society.