For the past nine months we have examined
leadership lessons from books of prophecy in the Old Testament. This
month we conclude with three lessons from two prophets—Zechariah and
Malachi. Zechariah who challenged the people to learn from the mistakes
of the past is remembered as an encouraging prophet, a visionary whose
writings contain more Messianic prophecies than perhaps any other book
except the much longer book of Isaiah. Malachi focuses on several
things, including the importance of setting a standard for excellence.
Leaders must learn from the past. Zechariah
begins (1:1-6) by saying even priests—the leaders—have come to despise
the Lord and forgotten how past leaders successfully led the nation.
Harvard professor, George Santayana said, "Those who
cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." But it takes more
than just remembering; leaders must learn from both the successes
and failures of leaders who came before them. Moses, Aaron, Joshua,
David, and Deborah are examples of earlier leaders who were successful.
Leaders must learn from the past.
Leaders must be encouragers. Zechariah, a
younger contemporary of the prophet Haggai, taught encouragement through
his words and actions (See: 2:3-13; 8:1-22; and elsewhere). Zechariah
used visions (picture stories) to encourage the people. He focused on
how things could and should be as he told the people to “take heart” for
things will get better. In the last chapter of his book, Zechariah
encourages people by prophesying the second coming of the Messiah who
will save them. My friend and colleague, Dr. Jack Hawkins, Chancellor
of Troy University says, “Leadership is the management of hope.”
Leaders must encourage and provide hope to followers.
Leaders set standards for excellence. The
people are not giving their best because their leaders are not giving
their best. Malachi challenges the people to give their best (1:7-8;
3:6-12). The United States Air Force has three Core Values. The key
words are: Integrity, Service, and
Excellence. If leaders possess integrity and have a heart to
serve, then excellence will follow. Followers must see leaders set the
example for excellence. Without excellence, groups, organizations,
corporations, and countries will fail.
The columns on Leadership Lessons from the Prophets
have presented contemporary lessons; that is, lessons that apply to us
today as much as they did over 2000 years ago.