Courageous Leadership

by Ian Peters

There are times when leaders are called upon to make “unpopular” or difficult decisions.  Very often, the circumstances requiring the decision may be unfavorable.  Sometimes we are called upon to speak truth that goes against popular culture.  Its at times like these that we have to figure out what courageous leadership is really about!

The 4th and 5th chapters of the Book of Judges in the Bible tell us the story of a courageous leader – who just happens to be a woman!  Deborah was a judge in Israel before the times of the Kings.  Israel had been going through cycles of rebellion and repentance in serving the Lord.

During one of their rebellion cycles, they fell into slavery to Jabin – a Canaanite king.  Barak was the commander of the Israelite army and was commissioned by Deborah to go to war against Jabin and secure the freedom of Israel.  Barak’s response was “If you will go with me, then I will go; but if you will not go with me, I will not go!” Judges 4:8

We can look at this in two ways:

  1. Barak recognized that the true leadership responsibility of Israel rested on Deborah and deferred to her authority.  This would be a courageous leadership decision on his part – especially in a patriarchal society.
  2. Barak was too chicken to go into battle by himself and needed Deborah by his side in order to set Israel free.  This demonstrates courageous leadership on the part of Deborah.

Either way, God used a woman to lead them into battle – AND WIN!  Courageous leadership goes beyond gender, ethnicity, social status or age.

When we come to Christ, there is no male or female; no Jew or Greek; no rich or poor.  He is looking at: “Who is the right person for the job?”  That person would be the one with the courage to say and do what God is leading in spite of circumstances or natural fears.

Here are some characteristics of courageous leaders:

  • Are sensitive to peoples feelings but not limited by them
  • Are not foolhardy but not daunted by the size of the task ahead
  • Are not “politically correct” but armed with the Word of God, they know how to “speak the truth in love”
  • Know which battles to fight and which ones to side step
  • Are not afraid to gather strong people around them who will be strong in areas where the leader is weak
  • Know how to take quick action when necessary but are not opposed to “holding off” till the timing is right
  • Know how to hold people accountable without micro managing
  • Are willing to show up early and stay late to see that the job gets done – without being workaholics