How can it be that Moses, who has been called the greatest hero in Jewish history, failed to lead his people into the Promised Land when there was tangible evidence that God’s Word was true—the land was indeed filled with milk and honey?
The answer may lie in our definition of leadership: Leadership is influence.
There is no doubt that Moses was in charge; he was the senior leader, the chief executive, the head honcho, the leader of the pack.
His position gave him tremendous authority. He was able to order leaders in each of the 12 tribes of Israel to undertake a potentially dangerous mission: to scout out the Promised Land before the rest of the Israelites entered.
But the amount of influence a leader possesses does not equal the level of his or her position. Thus, the highest ranking person does not always carry the most influence.
Unfortunately, some leaders will use positional authority rather than influence to exercise “leadership.” At worst, such “leadership” looks a lot like a phrase many of us have heard when we were growing up: “Because I said so.”
However, when a leader relies on positional power alone (“don’t you know who I am?”), people may obey him, but they may not support him. They may work in the organization, but they may not feel like a part of the organization. They may accomplish tasks, but they may not fulfill vision.
Nevertheless, it is tempting for a person to lead based on positional authority alone because people are more likely to do what they are told and leadership decisions are implemented more quickly.
But it would appear that Moses did not lead by positional authority alone or through fear and intimidation. Numbers 12:3 states, “Now Moses was a very humble man, more humble than anyone else on the face of the earth.”
This may be why the 10 leaders (driven by fear, doubt and unbelief) were bold enough to speak out against Moses’ plan. It does not completely explain why, at least in this instance, they had more influence with the people than Moses.
I submit (because who can really know?) that the 10 leaders had more influence than Moses because they were better known to the people than Moses.
Leadership is influence, and good influence comes from good relationships.
It is a subject we will visit in our next installment.