Leadership: The Ziklag factor

It was a ragtag army of six hundred men who, apart from following their Commander-In-Chief  from one cave to another, had found themselves in several sorties. On one of such sorties, they returned to their camp in a place called Ziklag expecting to have a period of rest before venturing out again. However what they found was completely out of the orbit of their wildest imagination. A band of raiders from Amalek, sworn enemy of their nation, had invaded the camp and carted away all that they had, families inclusive. Forlorn and thoroughly flustered, they all vented their anger and frustration on their leader David. They wept endlessly and many of them actually blamed David for their predicament. Some of them even talked of stoning him to death! They conveniently ignored the fact that not even the Commander-in-Chief’s property and family were spared in the raid. As his men wept, so did David. But he did not stop there. The story goes on to say that he encouraged himself in God. He thereafter consulted God and received instructions on what to do to alleviate the agony of his troops and possibly recover what they lost. Emboldened by the revelation he received from God, he encouraged and mobilized his men to go after the Amalekite marauders and indeed led his army not only to victory but to the recovery of everything that was stolen. Even though the situation was dire and sufficiently grave to make any leader despair, David provided very strong leadership that changed the narrative from that of despair to celebration for his troops. The full story can be found in 1 Samuel 30 of the Holy Bible.

Over the next few weeks, I plan to examine some critical lessons every leader should learn from David and the entire episode as well as its eventual resolution.

The first lesson to learn is that your followers may not always demonstrate solidarity with you in a crisis, especially when the crisis also affects them negatively. Most people on earth are driven by the WIIFM (What’s in it for me?) question. Many of the people you have led for a while would not hesitate to turn on you when the going gets rougher than their toughness. As human beings, we react to crisis differently. More often than not however, the leader bears the brunt of the collective calamity. To be effective in leadership, you must learn to take the flak from even some of your most trusted associates when their reactions to a collective challenge seems to indict you and hold you accountable for the misfortune of the group. That is the burden of leadership!

The second lesson we can learn from this story is that it takes a leader that has overcome depression and personal frustration to lift his followers out of depression. David was as worsted as his followers. But he demonstrated a higher level of responsibility by doing something about it. In life, it is not about what happens to you but what happens IN you! David also suffered losses in a proportion not less than any of his followers. But he did not stay in the rut of the hurt. He sought healing through divine encouragement.

Furthermore, the leader’s distress is not from the magnitude of the problem but from the attitude of his team. It hurts even more when these are people you have shared good and bad moments with. When most of these men came to meet David at the cave of Adullam, they were described as discontented, distressed and indebted fugitives from King Saul’s wrath. David took them in and turned them into a strong, fighting army. While they moved from cave to cave, he was with them and could hardly be distinguished from them. Besides, he personally led them to every battle that they fought. Yet, when push came to shove, they literally excoriated him! The wisest man of the Old Testament, Solomon, taught that one of the most wonderful things in the world is for a king to have his troops around and with him! According to him in Proverbs 14:28 , “A large population is a king’s glory, but without subjects a prince is ruined.”(NIV)

Ziklag means “a place of pressure” or “windy place”. Whenever a leader is faced with pressure from people or the environment, it is never about what is done to him. It is about how he responds. Most people react with emotional outbursts of actions that do not essentially address the core issues. We hardly see things as they are. We mostly see things as we are! A leader’s response to crisis must never be determined by the crisis. This is not to say that a leader is devoid of emotions. Leaders are also human and they experience, with perhaps greater gravity, the very things that happen to their followers. Gods too have clay feet. So this is not about acting Voltron when there is a crisis. It is about pulling back, shutting in to your Maker – if you have a relationship with Him – and seeking direction on the way forward. In such times, aloneness is not loneliness but wisdom. When faced with an overwhelming crisis that calls your position to question, shed tears and let off some steam if you must, but demonstrate leadership! Your followers are not seeking a companion in misery. They seek a way out of their pain. The legitimacy of your leadership is based on the confidence that they have in your capacity to inspire them to greater things when they are discouraged, to give them wings to fly even when you yourself feel that your own wings can hardly make you fly too far in view of an ongoing crisis!

Until recently, it was almost a taboo to mention God or spirituality in the corporate environment in the desire of man to demonstrate his own capacity and wisdom. In recent times however, more and more people are discovering that every man acts in tandem with the belief system that shapes his core values.

The leader’s greatest motivation is the source of his inspiration. Whatever gives you inspiration can also give you instruction. And whatever or whoever gives you instruction will give you direction. This is primarily why we have role models. In crisis, leaders learn to disconnect from their pain and seek direction outside it.

You definitely should learn critical lessons from the crisis but never receive direction from it! When your pain becomes your guide, isolation, depression, anger and bitterness against perceived causes are the result.

Hurt people will ultimately hurt people!….continued