The YHWH Way

Leadership books are a staple of the book selling industry and with good reason. Anyone who is wants to be accomplished at any skill is willing to buy a book to help them be better. If you want to be a good farmer you read about farming and discuss farming with your farming friends. If you want to be a good leader you read about being a good leader and discuss being a good leader with your good leader friends. Leadership books sell well for what I believe are two reasons. More than other people leaders are more motivated to be better leaders. Mediocre farmers can keep farming but mediocre leaders eventually don’t keep leading. Survival as a leader depends on skill. The other reason that leadership books do well is because leaders buy them. Leaders don’t as often have a group of leadership friends with whom they can discuss the skills of their craft. 

When someone writes a leadership book it is usually based on a person or an organization that is successful. Sometimes an author puts together a book on the rules for success based on a lot of people and sometimes it is based on just one. There’s a book titled The IBM Way. It was written in 1986 and was more relevant back then when IBM was king of the computer hill. Collin Powell, a former U.S. army general and secretary of state, wrote Thirteen Rules of Leadership. He’s the guy who said “There are no secrets to success. It is the result of preparation, hard work, and learning from failure.” For that quote alone, he deserves to be listened to. A leader only needs to learn one thing from a leadership book to make it a wise investment.

Rules of leadership where also laid down by the most successful God in history. How many organizations can claim a history as long as YHWH worship. It’s so long we don’t even know how old it is.

YHWH worship came to us from a tribe of desert wanderers. They had a very sophisticated concept of God.  This desert people had survived and prospered under harsh conditions. They did this with good leadership. All of the best qualities that made for a good leader came to be escribed to their God. By making their God their leader they found a way for all of the good leaders who had ever led the tribe to continue to lead the tribe. In contrast, the gods of the Canaanite people whom the desert people came to live among were a nasty bunch.

Canaan was a land flowing with milk and honey. That is how it was described to the YHWH worshippers when they were in the desert. When the people were no longer under constant threat of extinction the laws of YHWH seem restrictive rather than wise. YHWH, who did very well as a desert god, struggled to be the God of a people who lived in walled cities set on high hills. That pattern has remained for millennia. YHWH had his best days after his people had been conquered and dispersed among their conquerors.

YHWH is still popular among the poor. The most popular version of YHWH has him as not only being a shepherd but being the kind of God who would send his own ‘son’ to die for his people. The quotes are around ‘son’ because in a mysterious way YHWH’s ‘son’ was also YHWH. If you’re going to have a god wouldn’t you want one like that? Not if things are going well apparently.

Some rules of leadership as used and promulgated by the most successful God in Human History.

The 23 Psalm is well known and it was written about the relationship of a YHWH follower to YHWH

1The Lord

It seems odd calling god by his personal name so YHWH is usually translated as The Lord.  If you are a leader and people call you The Chief or The Boss or even something that appears disrespectful such as The Big Cheese, it’s a compliment. Go with it.

is my shepherd;

A leader is not a predator, he protects his people from predators. He’s not there to make the people work hard for him so that he can go on to riches and glory. That may not be what a leader wants to hear. Being a leader is hard work. You may feel that you should be rewarded with glory at least. Maybe you will be but people are very sensitive to pride. They’ll get on to you quick. Many of them will accuse you of only wanting glory even if you are the worlds most shepherd like leader.

I shall not want.

A leader takes care of his people’s needs.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

These are the things that a sheep would like. They’re metaphors. The good leader is still taking care of his flock’s needs.

He restoreth my soul:

A good leader takes care of not just his peoples physical needs but their deeper emotional needs as well. One of the deepest needs that people feel in the need to be part of something larger and more meaningful than their own meagre lives. 

he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.

Leaders are teachers. YHWH wants his people to be righteous so he leads in paths of righteousness. Leaders like their people to act in a way that keeps the group together and brings prosperity to everyone. That’s as good a definition of righteous as any.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me;

People need to have confidence that when the unknown arises, the leader can handle it.

thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

The rod and the staff are the tools of a shepherd. One is used to beat off predators and the other is used to direct the sheep. They’re two ends of the same stick. Being a good leader means using a little force on the sheep to keep them out of trouble and using a lot of force on any external enemies that would harm the herd. 

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies:

Your leader will treat you so well and you will prosper so much that your enemies will be jealous.

thou anointest my head with oil;

Having oil poured on your head was considered a good thing when this was written. Good leadership brings good times.

my cup runneth over.

There will be an excess of good times

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life:

Good leaders treat their people well. They are good to them when they do well and merciful when they do not.

and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

Good leaders are loyal and inspire loyalty in their people.

Below is a well known set of commandments given by YHWH. There are ten rules that begin with ‘Thou shalt not’ one begins with ‘Thou shalt’ and two begin with ‘Remember’. The commands are usually grouped so as to make ten instructions because ten is a nice round number. Some people view them as rules that everyone should apply to everyone else. Even if you are not one of those people you should follow and enforce these rules within your team. They are rules of good leadership.

Thou shalt have no other gods before me.

It is not unreasonable for a leader to demand undivided loyalty.

Thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image, or any likeness of any thing that is in heaven above, or that is in the earth beneath, or that is in the water under the earth.

This is, in part, a repeat of the first commandment. When this was written, gods were usually made out of something. It was a way of ensuring that people didn’t have other gods and therefore other loyalties. It was also a way to get people to think abstractly. Humans are very visual and we like to have a picture to represent our words. Even a word like god. It can hold an organization back. If you are leading an automobile company you should invite your people to not think of your company as a manufacturer of cars, but more abstractly. Think of being in the transportation business for instance. A car that breaks down isn’t doing any transportation. A transportation company is also more flexible. All consumer products companies should think of themselves as being in the business of making peoples lives better. If a product doesn’t make the purchaser’s life better don’t sell it.

Thou shalt not bow down thyself to them, nor serve them: for I the Lord thy God am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children unto the third and fourth generation of them that hate me; And shewing mercy unto thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.

No divided loyalties backed up with punishments and rewards. The whole tribe must worship the same god and the whole company must pursue the same goals. No private agendas.

Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain; for the Lord will not hold him guiltless that taketh his name in vain.

This rule has two meanings, take your pick or take both. On one level it means to show some respect. It sounds self-serving but when people are required to show respect to the leader everyone else gains respect also. Everyone whom a leader leads should know that they get respect just by virtue of being in the gang. The other meaning is to expect people to keep their promises. In the day this was written people would swear an oath in the name of their god. It was often done for deceitful purposes. If you say you are going to do something do it and as with all the rules expect your people to behave likewise.

Remember the sabbath day, to keep it holy. Six days shalt thou labour, and do all thy work: 10 But the seventh day is the sabbath of the Lord thy God: in it thou shalt not do any work,

People need time off from work. It is part of the way leaders ‘restore the soul’ of his people, mentioned above. People should have time to form personal bonds with in the team. It makes it easier for them to treat their fellow team members the way the last six commandments demand.

thou, nor thy son, nor thy daughter, thy manservant, nor thy maidservant, nor thy cattle, nor thy stranger that is within thy gates:

A leader expects the people under him to treat the people under them the same way they are treated. If a leader gives his people the day off then the sub-leaders are to give their people the day off also. A lot of harm is done in organizations when a leader treats his people well and the sub-leaders take advantage of that. They say things like ‘if you don’t like it here you can quit.

11 For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is, and rested the seventh day: wherefore the Lord blessed the sabbath day, and hallowed it.

You don’t really need a good reason for group holidays but this one is as good as any.

12 Honor thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.

A good leader honors those who came before. We are humans. We don’t live by our brute strength like the animals. Wisdom is important to us. Honoring the parents is honoring wisdom and experience. When things are changing quickly there is a temptation to dishonor the old because they will hold the group back. They’ll say things like ‘we tried that once and it didn’t work’. A good leader can deal with this by listening to the young but ensuring that the old still feel honored. The old are more likely to co-operate if they don’t feel dis-respected. 

13 Thou shalt not kill.

Leaders execute but they don’t murder and they don’t kill. Civil leaders are occasionally asked to punish someone by literally executing them. For other leaders killing takes the form of putting someone off the team by firing them. When leaders fire people for reasons other than just cause, they demoralize the whole team. When leaders push people to quit by making their life difficult it also makes everyone on the team apprehensive about their own place. Good leaders don’t do that and they especially don’t allow their subordinates to abuse team members until they quit.

14 Thou shalt not commit adultery.

In leadership, the command to not commit adultery is a command to be loyal. Leaders should be loyal to their team and should expect team members to be loyal to each other. Betrayal is one of the worst things that can happen to a person. Team members who betray each other are not really on the same team.

The command to not kill is analogous to not putting someone off the team unjustly. Literal murder is not a big problem in most team situations. Literal adultery is a big problem. Sexual relationships between team members is usually someone taking advantage of their position within the team to receive sexual favors. Good leaders take steps to prevent sexual predation. Even consensual relationships between equals harm the team though. When relations end, and they usually do, one half of the duo is emotionally motivated to leave the team.

15 Thou shalt not steal.

Don’t steal from the team is obvious and cause for dismissal. It also means to not steal from fellow team members by taking credit for their work.

16 Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.

False witness about fellow team members is very demoralizing. Gossip should be discouraged. False witness about other matters of team life is crucial. Leaders need real and true information about all aspects of the team to make good decisions. Telling lies is usually considered a minor offense but in leadership it is one of the worst things. Leaders need real and true information so they can make good decisions. Leaders need to give real and true information to their team so they can make good decisions. Wrong information can cause more harm to the team than most of the other commandments. A good leader should be truthful and expect truth from subordinates.

17 Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s house, thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s wife, nor his manservant, nor his maidservant, nor his ox, nor his ass, nor any thing that is thy neighbor’s.

In fact, don’t even want to do these things that harm someone else in the group. Focus on making the group better not on how you can make yourself better relative to other members of the group. When people are in a gang or a tribe or a nation there is a them and an us. The rock solid rule is that ‘us’ don’t harm ‘us’. A good leader keeps all of the ‘us’ focused on goals of the team. 

Two more good rules that are not written down but are modelled by YHWH.

Don’t micro manage

YHWH always works through people. He almost never shows up himself. Instead he calls certain individuals into his office and gives them his instructions. That is good delegating and having faith in your people. YHWH appreciates it when people have faith in him and he returns the favor, he has faith in us.

Take responsibility

Good leaders show up when needed. Even ones with a lot of faith in their people and who are good at delegating. When they do’ they are seen as care-givers to their people, teachers of their people and as someone who takes responsibility for the mistakes made by their people. According to the Christians YHWH did that too.


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