The Leadership Style of King David

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Leadership 1 Essay 1

Take one leader in the Bible, other than Jesus, and evaluate his or her leadership style from using the framework of modern thinking on leadership and your own theological reflection.


In her book "Leadership Can Be Taught", Sharon Parks (2005, p.3.) suggests that the study of leadership is "important for the common good" in today's "complex changing world". The term "complex changing world" could easily be used to describe the time covered by the early years of King David as described in 1 Samuel chapter 16 to 2 Samuel chapter 5, and 1 Chronicles chapter 11. This was the beginning of a turbulent Kingship for a dichotomous Israel, at a time of continual external agitation from their enemies. It was a time in which the type of leadership would determine the success or failure of the fledgling nation of Israel. Utilising contemporary leadership theory, this paper will analyse the leadership of David in his "wilderness years" whilst running from King Saul, particularly examining the way he led and influenced a group made of societies outcasts into a team. From this team some of these "discontented debtors" (1 Samuel 22:2) would forever be known among "David's mighty men" (2 Samuel 23:8 - 39).

Dumbrell (2002, p.86) describes these years of David's life as time of "waiting patiently", but on examination of Scripture these appear to show David in a time of great personal testing and tempering. This time was a time of God preparing Israel's new King (Damazio, 1988, p.134), and a period of God "removing David's crutches" (Swindoll, 1997, pp 62-69). This season of preparation is a critical step between a leader's call, and the leader's release into the fully matured functional leadership role (Damazio, 1988, pp. 131-134). To analyse David's leadership style during this time, this paper will firstly look briefly at the biblical account of David's fleeing from King Saul.

Overview of the Wilderness Years

In the preceding chapters to 1 Samuel 20, David has been accepted into the King's service, and has proved to be an exceptional army leader. David's leadership over Saul's troops is described as very task oriented. The focus of the accounts of David's battles in chapter 18 focus very much on the success of David, and the accolades he received from his fellow Israelites. The theme centers upon the completion of the task and the rewards. David was then forced to flee King Saul, who had previously tried to kill David while he was in the King's service by various means including throwing spears at him, sending him into an unsurvivable battle, and commanding others to kill him. Klien (1983, p. 210.) asserts that at no time up to now had David been either disloyal to King Saul or acted out of self-interest.

In Chapter 20, David flees after being warned to go by the King's son, Jonathon. He seeks food and weapons from the priest Ahimelech, lying to him by saying that he was with others on special King's business. David noticed Doeg the Edomite there, and even though he knew that he would tell Saul that he had seen David being assisted by Ahimelech, he focuses on his own needs, ignoring the possible ramifications - a common flaw of visionary leaders (Conger, 1990, pp.44-46). This lie results in not only the murder of Ahimelech and his family, but also the murder of all priests and their families living in Nob. The only survivor was the priest Abiathar, the son of Ahimelech. David later (ch22, v33) takes responsibility for their deaths. This moral failure is most likely motivated by the circumstances he is in, rather than a deeper character flaw. These motivational circumstances include loneliness and seclusion, stress, isolation from all forms of accountability and emotional support, lack of relationship with God, and a lack of meaningful relationships from within his previous followers� (Whetnam and Whetnam. pp. 16-21, 35, 47-51, 55).

In 1 Sanuel 22 David is hiding in the cave of...
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