A Leadership Message from Jethro

For those of you thinking about the Beverly Hillbillies, that’s not the Jethro I am referring to.
Rather, I was reminded of a different Jethro a few weekends ago. Every year ABC shows the Charlton Heston film “The Ten Commandments”. While there are many obvious leadership messages with Moses leading so many people, there is one subtle leadership message that could often be missed, but one that I think is outstanding.

Shortly after the Israelites cross the Red Sea, Jethro, Moses father-in-law, came to the camp to visit Moses and his family. Jethro observed Moses meeting with people and resolving disputes from morning till evening. Jethro’s statement to Moses was, “What you are doing is not good. You will wear yourself out. The thing is too heavy for you!” He went on to tell Moses that it was not effective for the people and that he needed different levels of leadership – some over hundreds, some over fifties, and some over tens. Moses would set the direction, but others would carry it out on direct levels. Moses would also just handle the “great matters”, and the other leaders would handle the “smaller matters”. Moses needed to find trustworthy leaders that would be an extension of himself to the people on a more personal level.

So we have a great depiction of how layers of leadership are to work in an account that took place so many years ago.

Taking this example to our present situation looks something like the following:

Front line leaders have more impact on the “followers” than anyone else. FLL’s are really the key to culture. The execution level is where strategy, plans, and programs become who we are and what we do. Without FLL’s driving execution, all those strategies and plans are just talk. FLL’s really decide what we accept and don’t accept.

Managers focus on shaping the vision, developing the plans/strategies, equipping the FLL’s and followers for success, and removing obstacles. Regardless of the level of management, that’s essentially what leaders at this level do.

So, if you are reading this message, there are a few key things that you need to note:
1. Everyone in a leadership role, regardless of level, is essential to success. Don’t underestimate your importance.
2. Trustworthiness (credibility) of any leader is the most important attribute for success. (not knowledge or technical ability)
3. Stay in your lane. Jethro gave Moses a lesson in work life balance in a culture with no cell phones or emails. Do your role well but let/expect others to do their roles well too.
4. Less may be more (effective). Doing more is not always in the best interest of your organization. Slow down from all the busyness and evaluate effectiveness on a regular basis.
5. Address issues but realize that issues can be addressed in a variety of ways. Empower trustworthy leaders and function as a unit!

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