Leadership Lessons from Joshua: Leaders Know When to Follow

(This is Part 6 of a 10-part series exploring leadership lessons from the book of Joshua in the Bible. I wrote this with men in mind, but the leadership principles discussed are, of course, transferrable to women, as well.)

When Joshua was near the town of Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with sword in hand. Joshua went up to him and demanded, “Are you friend or foe?”

“Neither one,” he replied. “I am the commander of the Lord’s army.”

At this, Joshua fell with his face to the ground in reverence. “I am at your command,” Joshua said. “What do you want your servant to do?”

The commander of the Lord’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did as he was told. (Joshua 5:13-15)

Joshua is the commander of the Israelite army. He is the top dog, placed in charge by the Lord Almighty. He is a righteous warrior with a divine mandate: root out the evil inhabitants of the Promised Land and take possession for God’s chosen people. So, when Joshua is confronted by another warrior standing between him and the people he is destined to fight, we might expect him to automatically go into battle mode. Instead, he does three things:

  1. Seeks – Joshua doesn’t assume that the man is an adversary even though he is standing with a drawn sword. Instead, he seeks the truth by asking a clarifying question: “Who’s side are you on?”
  2. Submits – Joshua’s high rank does not keep him from recognizing the authority of another and humbly submitting to his leadership.
  3. Serves – Instead of coming with his own agenda, Joshua asks the Lord’s Commander what he would have him do.   

Godly leaders don’t bulldoze over others and demand their own way. They seek clarity and collaboration (Philippians 2:1-5). They submit to others out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21) and serve sacrificially (John 13:14-15). If Joshua had not sought, submitted, and served, he would not have learned God’s unconventional strategy for victory over Jericho and the results could have been catastrophic.

When you face obstacles and opposition that seem to stand in your way, ask yourself three questions:

  1. What is the truth I need to seek out? What clarifying questions can I ask? What information do I need to better understand?
  2. Is there a decision or person that I need to submit to here? What is my motivation? What am I afraid of?
  3. How can I serve? Leaders don’t just identify obstacles and opposition, they help others overcome them.

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