One of my favorite definitions of leadership is by John Maxwell: “Leadership is influence.”
Simple, direct, clear.
To illustrate how this definition plays out, take a look at Numbers 13 and 14. These chapters tell the story of what happened after Moses had led the children of Israel to the brink of the Promised Land.
Moses has been described as the “greatest hero the Jewish people has ever known.” Yet, it was Joshua—not Moses—who eventually led the children of Israel into the Promised Land. What happened?
Moses chooses one person from each of the 12 tribes of Israel to scout the land before entering it. According to Numbers 13:3 (NIV), “All of them were leaders of the Israelites.” The 12 of them scout the land and confirm that it is, in fact, the land of milk and honey that God had promised.
But most of us know the rest of this episode. And it does not end with the children of Israel drinking milk and eating honey in Canaan.
Ten of the 12 leaders give a bad report of the land. They emphasize the challenges rather than the opportunities. Each of those 10 leaders had more influence on their tribes than Moses and more influence on their respective tribes than leaders from other tribes (i.e., the other two leaders who are ready to possess the land).
Based on the bad report they get from their leaders, the children of Israel demand to return to Egypt and even threaten to stone Moses. God is displeased with this disobedience, and the children of Israel wander in the desert for 40 years.
The leaders who influenced the people to disobedience aren’t so fortunate. They were “struck down and died.”
In the coming weeks, we will use this episode to explore the subject of leadership using the definition “leadership is influence.” Why are some leaders more influential than others? (Was not Moses an influential leader?) How is influence obtained? Leadership may be influence, but this episode suggests that people are not always influenced in the best ways. What does that say about leadership? Are good leadership and effective leadership the same thing?