Helping the Chronically Overworked Find Life Balance

The Weakness Of a Leader Who Is Too Strong

Chapter 7: Secure Your Identity Part 16, conclusion

Any way you slice it, Abraham was an extraordinary man.  He insulted the god/king to his face and wasn’t executed on the spot.  Whether it was by divine intervention as the stories tell, or because he was too powerful to kill, Abraham had it going on.

How did Abraham overcome a culture that was thousands of years old to form a new way  of thinking that today has over 4 billion followers?  In the words of Popvox CEO Marci Harris  “A dedicated team with shared vision can make amazing things happen, and still be standing long after others go home.”  Abraham’s vision had a strong element of putting people first, and the laws of God that he taught applied equally to all men, whether a king or a begger.  Abraham’s tent was open on four sides so anyone could come and talk with him, and he personally washed the feet of guests from the desert on the day he was circumcised at the age of 99.

While Abraham’s wealth, influence and followers increased over his lifetime, his story illustrates the weakness of the movement: it was hard. God was now an abstraction, unknowable and un-seeable.  It was harder for people to believe in the abstract God than it was to follow the multiple gods of the surrounding cultures, gods that everyone could touch and feel.

Early Judaism depended on single leaders to foster a group identity.  This did a great job of creating the religion, but it was hard to maintain in the long term.  Within a few generations of his death, the Abraham’s people, the Israelites fell back into idolatry.  This reminds me of descriptions in the book Good To Great of companies that achieved great results under a charismatic leader, but fell apart after the leader left.

What it took for the Israelites to get to the next level was a new leader, Moses the lawgiver, who brought written laws and “process,” to help create a way of life to support the values taught by Abraham.

And the same process holds for those of us trying to overcome corporate idolatry.  Each of us on our own can shift our identity to prioritize people over the company.  But for those changes to last, we need a community of like-minded people.

Who is your community?

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