Problems. All leaders face problems. To a large degree solving problems is what leaders do.
Collin Powell once said,
Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you their problems is the day you have stopped leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.
As leaders we should desire not to just solve problems, but to breakthrough them.
2nd Samuel 5:17-25 provides some lessons leaders can learn from in seeking breakthroughs.
After David was anointed King over Israel, he like many leaders, immediately faced a problem. Likely his soldiers, spies or scouts, got word to him that the Philistines had spread out in the Valley of Rephaim. In any case, David knows he has a problem.
A problem has arisen. An old enemy is present. But David does not rush into battle. First he goes to the Lord. “so David inquired of the Lord, ‘Shall I go and attack the Philistines? Will you deliver them into my hands?'” (2nd Samuel 5:19).
David asks the Lord if he should take action. Like many leaders David has a bias towards action. He asks the Lord if the Lord will make him successful.
He listens. God responds. He obeys.
David gets his answers and then goes into action. The Lord told David to, “Go” so to not go would be disobedient. In obedience, David and his army attack…and the Lord breaks through his enemies.
“and there he defeated them. He said, ‘As waters break out, the Lord has broken out against my enemies before me'” (2nd Samuel 5:20).
The Lord breaks through David’s problem. God went before David to prepare the victory.
David takes the time to honor what the Lord did for him. David takes time to acknowledge the victory.
“Therefore the name of that place is called Baal-perazim” (2nd Samuel 5:20). Baal-perazim means Lord of bursting through.
God is a God of breakthroughs. Leaders must realize that the most powerful breakthroughs come from God, not their hands or minds.
But he was not finished, because again the problem arises.“Once more the Philistines came up and spread out in the Valley of Rephaim” (2nd Samuel 5:22). David again goes to the Lord.
Now here is the interesting thing leaders who are looking for innovations and breakthroughs should take note of. David might have correctly assumed that since this was the same enemy that God would give him the same answer. David might have been tempted to rush ahead and attack based on the assumption of what had taken place previously. But he didn’t. This was a wise leadership decision.
See God had a different plan, and if David had not sought God first, he would have missed the new plan–the wrinkle, the innovation, the change in tactics. God wanted David to approach the problem in a new way.
“Do not go straight up, but circle around behind them and attack them in front of the poplar trees. As soon as you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the poplar trees, move quickly, because that will mean the Lord has gone out in front of you to strike the Philistine army” (2nd Samuel 5:23-24).
Once again, David was victorious, but the victory was gained through a different approach. God provided a different sort of breakthrough accomplished in a very different way from the first victory.
Here are 10 lessons all leaders can learn about breakthroughs:
1.Be Aware: Recognize problems before they attack. Don’t ignore them or let them linger. Leaders must be able to see the potential and consequences that accompany ignoring problems.
2. Go First To God: David goes to God with the problem. He is a man of action like many leaders, but he wisely seeks God’s direction first. To many leaders charge off into battle with little more than a prayer in the beginning. If a leader is to seek God, that leader is to wait for God’s reply.
3. Act Obediently: once David received God’s direction he acted obediently on the direction he was given.
4. Let God Go Before You: A leader, like David, that waits on the Lord; that prays, seeks, listens, and the acts allows God to go before them. David allowed God to go before him and his army to ensure the victory.
5. Honor The Victory: take time to celebrate the victory that God has provided. Take time to acknowledge the work God has done. Think of how its story can be retold to support your culture, values, and mission.
6. No Assumptions: When similar problems arise don’t make quick assumptions about the solution. Go to God, pray, seek, ask, and listen. You never know when God has an innovative, creative, or new approach for you to follow.
7. Follow Direction: When God gives you direction, make sure you follow it through. Notice the specifics David was given to follow. When God is specific we should follow specifically. God’s direction are not guidelines but blueprints.
8. God Creates The Breakthroughs: As leaders move to address problems, it’s important to remember that it is God who creates the breakthroughs. It is God that goes before leader preparing and paving the way for the victory.
9. Finish: Finish well. Don’t go half-way…go all the way. Go all the way through the breakthrough.
10. Lead Well: none of lessons of 1-9 should be delegated to others. This is the leaders job. Delegation is an important leadership tool. Leaders need to delegate to build others. But there are some tasks that simply cannot be delegated. Followers can not do the praying a leaders should do. Followers can not demonstrate the obedience a leader must show. When leaders delegate what they should be doing…it is not empowerment; it’s neglect. Lead well.