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February 2013 - Leadership Lessons from Jeremiah

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Dr. John Kline

In December and January we examined six leadership lessons to be learned from the Old Testament book of Isaiah.  This month we learn three lessons from the prophet, Jeremiah.   Jeremiah is often remembered as a prophet of doom and is referred to as “the weeping prophet,” but he was also a prophet who demonstrated empathy for the people, exposed the misuse of power by the mighty, and extended hope to the people. We can learn valuable leadership lessons from Jeremiah.

Empathy. Jeremiah demonstrated empathy with the people and felt their hurt. (see: 4:19; 8:18)  Once people assume a role of leadership, they must be careful not to separate themselves from their followers; they must remember what it was like before they assumed leadership. They must be willing to come down from their “ivory towers” and walk with the people.  Many leaders fail, because they lose touch with the people.  They are unable to feel their pain or share their joys.  Leaders must empathize with followers.

Power. The book of Jeremiah tells how much was expected from the kings of Judah, but they misused their power; consequently, they failed and both they and their followers paid the price. (see: chapters 22-23; especially 23:20) Abraham Lincoln said, “If you want to test a man’s character – give him power.” Napoleon could not acquire enough power. He said, “Power is my mistress.” Actually, power also became his master, and Napoleon became a prime example of how “power corrupts.”  Leaders must use power wisely, knowing much is expected of them.  

Hope. Jeremiah extended the hope God revealed to him.  In his book of Lamentations, Jeremiah extended hope to the people. (Lamentations 3:19-25). My boss, leader, and friend, Dr. Jack Hawkins, Jr., the Chancellor of Troy University says “Leadership is the management of hope.”  Leaders simply must extend hope to their followers and they must effectively manage that hope.

Show empathy, Use power wisely, and manage hope—three things leaders must do to lead effectively.

John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

February 2013 - Leadership Lessons from Jeremiah
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