Our Counselors Influence Our Course

Our counselors influence our course. Don’t believe me? Just ask Joash.

Deep in the Old Testament book of 2 Chronicles you find the story of Joash. In the wake of a period of great evil under the reign of Ahaziah, God used a priest by the name of Jehoiada to secure the kingdom, rid it of evil and bring Joash into power. 2 Chronicles 24:2 says that, “Joash did what was right in the eyes of the Lord all the days of Jehoiada the priest.” With Jehoiada the priest in the picture, Joash acted wisely and led the people of God to worship regularly. (2 Chron. 24:14)

But great men don’t live forever. In time, “Jehoiada grew old and full of days, and died.” After the death of Jehoiada, 2 Chronicles says that “the princes of Judah came and paid homage to the king. Then the king listened to them.”

Unfortunately Joash didn’t vet his new counselors. He embraced advisors without considering their character.  The result?  2 Chronicles 24:18 says that, “they abandoned the house of the Lord, the God of their fathers, and served the Asherim and the idols.” Seemingly overnight Joash moved from honoring God to abandoning Him.

But God in His infinite grace sent prophets to His people to bring them back. Enter Zechariah, the son of Jehoiada the priest. With all of Joash’s history with this great man you would think that Joash would have embraced Zechariah, Jehoiada’s son. But surrounded by bad counsel 2 Chronicles says that they (meaning Joash and those he was listening to from Judah) conspired against Zechariah leading Joash to order that he be killed. (2 Chron. 24:21-22)

Mom Was Right

My mother was right when she told me: “Be careful who you listen to.” But long before Mom said it, God wrote it. Much of Psalms and Proverbs espouses the wisdom of many counselors… but it also advises the pursuit of the right kind of counsel.  Time and time again in the Scriptures we see the power of picking the right kind of counsel. Think of Solomon’s son, Rehoboam, who could have been a great had he not rejected the wisdom of his father’s counselors for the folly of his own friends (see 1 Kings 12). On the flip side, consider how Moses benefited because he listened to the wisdom of his father-in-law, Jethro (Exodus 18).

The clear warning of Scripture is that it is foolish to listen to no one… but it is equally foolish to just listen to anyone. Wisdom calls us to not only pursue many counselors but also to be highly discerning about who we choose to place in those positions.

Picking The Right People To Listen To

So how do you pick the right people for wisdom when you need it? Consider at least these three things:

1.  Think Character Before Competency.

Too often we seek advice from someone based solely on what we see on the surface (i.e. success, position, etc). But external criteria doesn’t guarantee the presence of internal character. We all want to learn from those who have had success, but to evaluate character in the midst of competency we must ask: “What have been your hardest lessons?” “What is God teaching you right now?” “Where did you fail to listen to God and what did it cost you?” If a leader can’t readily and quickly answer these questions they probably aren’t a voice worth pursuing. Men and women of character have character because it was forged in the fire – and good leaders never hesitate to talk about the lessons they learned in the crucible.

2.  Avoid People Who Always Agree With You.

Pursue honest people. Proverbs 27:6 says, “faithful are the wounds of a friend.” Good advice isn’t always easy; and people who really care about you will tell you what you need to hear even if it’s not what you want to hear. People who are always agreeable, always encouraging and always taking your side are best left on the sidelines as they make for good cheerleaders but bad counselors.

3.  Vet Their Voice.

God won’t send someone to you to tell you something contrary to what He has already written to you. If the advice of the people around you stands in contrast to what God has already said in His Scriptures, run. Equally, it’s dangerous to rely on only one voice so vet their voice through the wisdom of others. Proverbs speaks of the merit of many counselors for a reason. Don’t just find one, find a few.

So consider who you are listening to, choose those people well and don’t just listen to anyone but do listen to someone. Only a fool walks alone.

“The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.”  
~ Proverbs 24:15


A Leader’s Legacy

Leadership is ultimately measured not by what a leader builds but rather who a leader builds up. The legacy we leave in those around us is the ultimate measure of our leadership; but as James Kouzes notes, “Legacies are not the result of wishful thinking. They are the result of determined doing.”

When it comes to a leader’s legacy, Scripture could not be more clear in the importance and primacy of this task. Moses left a legacy in Joshua, Elijah invested in Elisha, Jesus poured Himself into the 12 and Paul equipped Timothy. The message and the model of Scripture is clear: leaders are called to pour themselves into the next generation of leaders for the good of the Kingdom. Consequently, the question every leader must ultimately ask is: “Who am I investing in today to prepare for the leadership of tomorrow?”

Passing It On

The natural inclination for most leaders is to focus on their own growth and development, but true leadership is about considering the growth and development of the leaders around you. Neglecting to pour into the leaders around you will ultimately undermine your own leadership. Everything you have worked for will end with you unless you prepare your people and your organization to carry it on.

The best leaders don’t simply build or manage great organizations, they ensure that great leadership is there to lead the organization into the future long after they are gone. How do we do this? Consider these principles as you reflect on leaving a legacy through your own leadership:

1.  Offer Exposure and Experience.

For leadership to be successfully passed on it must be readily visible and accessible by those you are developing. Christ seldom did ministry alone; frequently involving His disciples in ministry and processing with them regularly about what they had just seen. Why was this so critical? Because nothing is more important than exposure and experience in the formation of a leader.  Ask yourself: Who will you invite to join you and learn from you as you lead?

2.  Character Is Critical.

When considering who to pour into, remember that character is critical. It sounds obvious, but many leaders can get so focused on competency that they neglect to do their due diligence when it comes to character. Skills can be taught and developed, but character is a critical necessity for leadership that cannot be compromised. Without character a young, competent leader will grow impatient during his or her development. Don’t risk the future of your organization on someone who can’t wait and won’t listen.

3.  Humble and Hungry.

What do you do if you have a young leader with character but lacking in the core competencies to do the job? Ask, “Are they humble and hungry?” You can do a lot with someone who is hungry to develop; but you can’t do anything with someone who is hard to motivate (or worse yet, doesn’t think they need the help!). Focus the bulk of your time on investing in  young leaders that have the humility to learn and the hunger to develop.

4.  Allow for Failure.

Too often leaders try to shield the people they are developing from failure for fear that they will get discouraged, lose heart or quit. The problem with that approach is that failure is often the best mentor. We tend to learn the most from our failures, not from our successes. Not only that, failure is a key tool in God’s hands that keeps us humble and dependent on Him. It was precisely Peter’s failure before Christ that led to His radical transformation from an eager, hot-headed leader to a humble and gentle shepherd of God’s sheep. Don’t rescue your team from failure, teach them instead how to walk through failure and learn from it.

Zig Ziglar once said, “You don’t build a business, you build people. And then people build the business.” So stop trying to build a great organization and invest yourself instead in building great men and women that will make your organization truly great.