Three Leadership Dimensions

And David shepherded them with integrity of heart; with skillful hands he led them. (Psalm 78:72)

This one verse in the book of Psalms summarizes David’s leadership legacy over his lifetime. David displayed these three leadership qualities all his life, as a youth when he confronted and defeated the giant, and later on as Israel’s king. As a youth his character was tested when his brother tried to smear him with his venomous words. David decided to take a higher road than his brother’s course and crossed the line of criticism with dignity. David’s communication skills among the soldiers on the battlefield brought him before King Saul who allowed him to fight the giant. The reason for his overt communication was that he was looking for the gatekeeper, the person who could and would bring him before the king. His competence as a soldier was evident when he used his slingshot with such accuracy against his foe and defeated him.

Over time David perfected his leadership skills and became a master leader and led Israel into its greatest period in history. He eventually became the most respected and renowned leader that Israel ever had ruling from the throne. Today, his leadership legacy is enshrined as a man who sought after God’s very own heart, defeated and subdued the nations around Israel, started the great economic boom in Israel’s history that was eventually carried into Solomon’s reign. All these can be summed up into one theme; spiritual leadership. As a matter of fact many kings that followed him were compared and measured to his leadership legacy. Here are a few examples of those kings who did not measure up to David’s leadership standard:

I tore the kingdom away from the house of David and gave it to you [King Jeroboam], but you have not been like my servant David, who kept My commands and followed Me with all his heart, doing only what was right in My eyes. You have done more evil than all who lived before you. (1 Kings 14:8-9)

He [King Amaziah] did what was right in the eyes of the LORD, but not as his father David had done. (2 Kings 14:3)

Unlike David his father, he [King Ahaz] did not do what was right in the eyes of the LORD his God. (2 Kings 16:2)

One king, however, measured up to David’s legacy of what a leader should be. King Josiah was one of them:

He did what was right in the eyes of the LORD and walked in all the ways of his father David, not turning aside to the right or to the left. (2 Kings 22:2)

We can deduct three leadership traits from the passage found in Psalm 78:72 that are at the core of leadership today. Great leaders, like David, should possess many qualities of leadership but only three stand out as the core three. A dimensional leader possesses a strand of qualities that elevate him or her in the eyes of those they lead. I call this model of leadership the three dimensions of leadership. They are:

• Character – integrity of heart.
• Competence – with skillful hands.
• Communication – he led them.

Character – [The Messenger]

“And David shepherded them with integrity of heart…”

Over the years authors and those in academia have given us a litany of definitions on the subject of character and many of these definitions are very good. Since I don’t want to give you a textbook definition I have come up with my own:

Character is a consistent possession and demonstration of moral virtues, which are involved in correcting a wrong or confronting an evil that exists in the world.

A person of character takes an atmosphere or culture that is out of balance with the moral laws of God and brings this chaos into conformity to God’s purposes. For example, unlike those around him at the time David was not afraid of Goliath’s voice nor his size. When David heard Goliath’s voice he was stirred and something rose up inside him. He became incensed with a cause; God’s cause. Israel was different than any other nation or army in that they were God’s servants to display God’s glory or at times punish the wicked nations and display God’s might, but they were not living up to the standard expected of them. A person of moral character like David does not shrink or flinch back when evil or adversity threatens. Rather a person of character leaps forward to confront the evil that is before them. Character is possessing moral integrity which is basically having the guts to do the right thing in whatever circumstance you find yourself in. Character discerns evil and confronts it. Character then brings solutions to the existing problems that plague humanity and rally’s others around a moral code and biblical ethic.

The types of people that God promotes are those who have taken the time to develop their character. God supplies the anointing which is the divine empowerment to do the job but you must supply the character in order to engage and bring the task that is before you to completion. Moral character is your responsibility. You develop it by making daily moral choices, carving and weaving a disposition of divine character into your personal constitution. The component of character in a leader’s life is essential for confronting and defeating the giants in your life.

Character helps you to:

• Prioritize God’s causes.
• Ask the right questions because the right answers are critical for the journey.
• Keep the big picture in view.
• Be wise as you maneuver throughout the crowd because you will need the crowd’s influence to get the King’s attention.
• Develop trust which is essential for the emergence of a partnership.
• Develop courage because without it you won’t be able to confront the giant.
• Be established and favored in the eyes of others.

The word character comes from a Greek word which means “exact copy” or “representation.” In Hebrews 1:2 it states that Jesus “is radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.” It conveys the imprint of God upon Jesus’ life. We are called to have the image of our Creator imprinted upon our lives (Romans 8:29). Therefore the many facets of our character should reflect the virtues of divinity since we are mandated to have dominion upon the earth by bearing the image (character) of our Creator. If you are looking for the virtues of character you can find them in the life of Jesus by reading the gospels or the stories of the great men of the Bible (Hebrews 11, Galatians 5:22-25).

A person of character is known as the messenger. A messenger must have a strong moral fiber if he or she is going to be heard and believed by others. David was God’s messenger to his generation. He possessed character and carried a believable message that persuaded others. Character is essential for the journey ahead since giants will arise to keep us limited in a fixed state of hopelessness which restricts our potential to excel and move toward the fulfillment of our destiny. Do a self-evaluation of your character? Reflect on the following questions before answering them:

• Do you correct your friends when they say an off colored joke, curse or gossip about someone?
• When you are watching television alone, do you view sexually implicit material that you normally would not view if your wife were at your side?
• In what area of your life do you struggle the most? (Emotional, sexual, physical, spiritual, relational) Why?
• Do you read the warning material when selecting and renting a movie?
• Does the content of a movie matter to you?
• Do you easily resolve disagreements and conflict?
• Do you avoid people who may not agree with your ideas at work?
• Do you easily share your thought life with others; wife or mentor?
• Do your comments get you into trouble or do they bring you praise from your peers?

Competence – [Mastery]

“…and with skillful hands…”

What is competence? Competence is possessing and mastering a level of knowledge and skill that it expressed in a certain field. How is competence achieved? Is competence an innate or learned quality? I believe competence is found in both. Since we were each created for a purpose, competence potential is latent in the qualities that are dormant within us. Once discovered these qualities are developed and refined over time to a point of mastery, therefore, mastering some level of knowledge. I have discussed these characteristics earlier referring to them as the accumulation of your T.A.G. cluster. We all have the potential to reach a level of competence, but do we make the effort to achieve it in our lifetime? God imprints His image in us in many ways and we can detect some of them through our gifts and abilities. These gifts and abilities are placed within us in raw form at birth. We are then responsible to discover and then develop them into a mature state. A competent person is a person who has developed their gifts and honed in their abilities over time, and has achieved a level of mastery which is proven consistently. Competent people are sought after by kings, presidents and CEO’s for what they know and can pass on to others. King Solomon, the wisest of all kings in Israel, states an important truth in Proverbs 22:29.

Do you see a man skilled [competent] in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.

This is one of the reasons why David was brought before the king; he had something of substance to offer the royal crown. When I think of people who have mastered their craft well I cant’ help but think of a person like General Colin Powell, and a story that I once read in a book. The book Now, Discover Your Strengths speaks about an encounter two men had with General Colin Powell. After he spoke to a group of people one member of the duo said to another that “by the end of the speech we had a different question: ‘Is he always this good?’ In the course of one short hour General Powell had revealed himself to be an especially gifted public speaker… it was a simple message, perfectly delivered.” General Powell did not achieve this mastery of public speaking over night, it took some time to learn, refine and master. With much persistence and practice over time we too can become a competent person.

Communication – [The Message]

“…he led them.”

If you lead others then you understand the importance of communicating to them in a way that they will respect and want to follow. Leadership is about inspiring others. You cannot inspire someone without communicating a positive message that others will voluntarily listen to and embrace. You cannot lead effectively without communicating a clear, compelling and inspirational message. We can deduct one thing concerning David’s ability to communicate, that leadership requires a great deal of communication and interaction with those who surround us albeit in the workforce or even among our very own family members. Leadership requires that the leader communicate a clear and compelling message to others in order to gain their confidence so that you can harness their collective energy for a common objective.

David was a great communicator. In 1 Samuel 17 David was found on the battle lines integrating with the soldiers by asking them questions. David was seeking the correct information before he could proceed to his next step, that of volunteering himself to confront and fight the behemoth. Tim Sanders, the author of The Likeability Factor, states that “Likeable and friendly people engage more deeply in conversations around projects and tasks, and people pay more attention to them, developing leadership as well as eliminating misunderstanding.” You remember when Eliab, David’s eldest brother, attempted to censor him from inquiring any further about the giant yet David responded by saying, “Can’t I even speak?” If you have experienced any level of leadership I am sure that you have encountered those naysayers who have tried to mute or silence you in some way. David communicated well with his new team members and received the answers that he was seeking.

One of the reasons for communicating well with others is to acquire clarity. Clarity is a clear understanding of the circumstances and facts that are before you. Once you get clarity you can move on with confidence toward your goal. We can’t focus properly without clarity. Do you want to be a good communicator? It starts by asking questions, plenty of them until you get the answers that you are seeking. The narrative says:

David asked the men standing near him, “What will be done for the man who kills this Philistine and removes this disgrace from Israel? Who is this uncircumcised Philistine that he should defy the armies of the living God?” (1 Samuel 17:26)

David inquired of the men more than once. He wanted to get a clear perspective of the situation as well as the benefits of defeating the giant. When you purposefully integrate with your team you ask the right questions that no one else is willing to ask and you will find the right answers that you are looking for. David was self-informed by his persistence in communicating with others. He wanted the hard true facts before putting himself on the line to fight. He knew that he could defeat Goliath so he wanted to see what the reward would be. David was wise at a young age. He was very wise by examining the situation first and then drawing the right conclusions before stepping up to volunteer. Some people call this tactic “counting the costs.” I call it wise leadership. After he got his answers he then needed to meet the one who would grant him permission to fight Goliath. David displayed such an extreme confidence and character among the soldiers that they eventually felt safe to take him to see King Saul. David’s ability to communicate well with those around him promoted him to his next level. David knew that the best learning environment is networking, interacting and communicating together on a team. People possessing good communicative skills are more likely to be believable than others. They are messengers known for their message. These three characteristics: character, competence and communication are the qualities of a dimensional leader.

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Chapter 9

[1] Buckingham, Marcus & Donald O. Clifton, Ph.D. Now, Discover Your Strengths. (The Free Press: New York, 2001), 39.
[2] Sanders, Tim. The Likeability Factor (Random House: NY, 2005), 58.