I recently spoke on leadership from II Chronicles 26:1-21. King (CEO) Uzziah was an exceptional leader, due to four best practices he adopted. He also failed spectacularly because he forgot the fourth of these later in his career. All of us in leadership should know and apply these best practices to flourish both personally and professionally.
Uzziah served as King of Israel from 792 to 740 B.C. In this role he had the duties of a modern-day CEO. He was given executive authority to lead the nation by God, much as a CEO is given executive authority by his or her board to lead the organization. The CEO is then responsible to determine and effectively execute a strategy to reach the objectives. To do so entails organizing people, processes, and resources most effectively. In this the work of Uzziah and a CEO are very similar. Furthermore, the principles apply to anyone in leadership today at any level of a company or organization.
Uzziah had a long tenure as CEO (52 years). For most of that time he was very successful. He successfully built a national infrastructure (v. 8-9). He developed and sustained economic growth, including expanding international trade. (In verse two the city of Eloth is mentioned. This was a port city built by his predecessor Solomon but no longer functioning. Uzziah rebuilt it, again opening trade with Arabia, Africa and India.) He built a strong military, both in size and quality of training and preparedness (v. 11). He leveraged technology in ways that strengthened his position and strategic advantage (vs. 10-11 and 14-15). As a result his reputation grew and he was known as an exceptional leader not only in his own nation, but in the international community as well (v. 8).
So what best practices did he implement to be so successful? Four best practices are identified that directly result in his success. It is also the rejection of (at least) one of these practices once he became a more seasoned leader that had disastrous consequences, eventually leading to his shameful removal from office!
Best Practice One: Seek God and Apply His Principles
We are told Uzziah “did right in the sight of the Lord” (v. 4) and “He continued to seek God” (v. 5) as “as long as he sought the Lord, God prospered him” (v. 5). In fact, his name even means “the Lord is my strength”.
Uzziah understood and applied a universal law of cause and effect: seek God and He will guide your steps. He understood there is a direct correlation between the two. As one seeks God, flourishing results (on many levels). In addition to personal flourishing, leaders who seek God often find their companies (and in this case nation) flourish as well.
Like many principles identified in Scripture, there are always exceptions (think the book of Proverbs). But in general the correlation holds true. This is observed throughout Scripture and throughout history.
What is the cause of this correlation? Certainly one aspect is the fact that God is gracious to those who seek Him, and blesses them beyond measure. His grace is often expressed in giving them success (though not always).
Yet I believe there is a second correlation that we must not miss. Part of God’s grace is providing to anyone who will listen His insights on how we were created and therefore how we best function—in relation to Him, others and the world around us.
By analogy, when I buy a car I always find in the glove box an instruction manual. This is provided by the manufacturer to tell me how to operate the car safely and get the best production from it. The manufacturer knows this best, and if I want the car to run properly and serve me well, I will follow those instructions.
As our Creator, God similarly knows how we will best operate (what will lead to our flourishing). Some of these principles deal with how we can best work together with others. It is these principles that help leaders lead well and find success. A company or organization is essentially a set of relationships among people (employees, clients, vendors, donors, governmental agencies, etc.) seeking to effectively produce a result. So the principles God provides are simply the best ways to have healthy relationships that lead to success. These include treating others at all levels of the organization with respect, the values of hard work, honesty, thriftiness and savings, and so on.
There are currently over 500 marketplace ministries helping business professionals learn to apply these principles in their professional contexts. These ministries flourish because the principles correlate to business reality!
The church in Africa is currently gaining a deeper understanding of this as well. A Global Scholars professor has been doing research on the changing values and beliefs of the African church. One interesting finding is that there is a shift away from the naïve and unbiblical “Prosperity Gospel” which teaches that God wants us rich, if we only believe enough (and give enough money to those who proclaim the Prosperity Gospel). In its place many African churches he studied are teaching that wealth and well-being (“prosperity”) are the result of applying biblical principles such as hard work, honesty and frugality. Believers in the churches that apply these principles in general find they have success and prosper. As the Lord tells Joshua as he was ascending to a senior leadership role, “Keep this Book of the Law always on your lips; meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do everything written in it. Then you will be prosperous and successful.” (Joshua 1:8, italics added).
The fact is that following God’s principles results in good leadership and prospering businesses. This is a “best practice” employed over the centuries (in this case, almost 3000 years ago)!
How are you applying this best practice in your leadership? If you are not yet convinced God exists or is worth following, I invite you to explore my website, beginning with the “Definitions” page, and other sites I link to. And send me a note if you have specific questions or would like to chat about this further.
If you are a Christ follower, have you found effective ways to employ this best practice?
Next week I’ll discuss the second best practice of Uzziah—having mentors in his life. Until then, grace and peace.