Helpful Leadership Lessons Found in the Book of Daniel
The Old Testament book of Daniel tells the story of four men who possessed leadership influence and spiritual convictions.
Daniel and his three friends, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah, later renamed as Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego are the four individuals that this book is based upon. Their ability to participate in an environment that many would interpret as negative shows powerful skills of leadership influence with a foundation of deep convictions.
There are times that many leaders have convictions and ideas that are completely lost because their influence is destroyed. Influence is best defined as the capacity to have an effect on the character, behavior and development of people. All through the book of Daniel, leadership influence and convictions are seen in the behavior of all four of these men.
Where Helpful Leadership Begins
During the third year of the reign of Jehoiakim, the king of Judah, Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon came to Judah and took it captive. During this siege, King Nebuchadnezzar ordered Ashpenaz, the chief of his officials, to bring into the service of Babylon the best of Judah. His request was simple,
“…….bring into the king’s service some of the Israelites from the royal family and the nobility— young men without any physical defect, handsome, showing aptitude for every kind of learning, well informed, quick to understand, and qualified to serve in the king’s palace. He was to teach them the language and literature of the Babylonians.The king assigned them a daily amount of food and wine from the king’s table. They were to be trained for three years, and after that they were to enter the king’s service. (Daniel 1:3-5)
The king was seeking out young leaders who were
- physically in shape
- showed a desire to learn
- team players
The spiritual influence of these four men began by their personal appearance. Even though they had been taken into captivity, their attitudes and appearance naturally gave witness of men of quality. Like any people taken captive, these men had ever right to be negative and resistant. Negativity was not the attitude of these young men. When these four young men were chosen, all four were given new names. This name change also included Daniel, whose name was changed to Belteshazzar. (Daniel 1:7)
Helpful Leadership Begins By Showing Respect to Others
In their first year of training in the Babylonian king’s court, these four men faced a challenge that went against their personal beliefs and convictions. During their three years of training (Daniel 1:3) these men were to become the best of Babylon. This training also included eating the diet of the land. This dietary plan of Nebuchadnezzar did not agree with the convictions of Daniel and his colleagues. But rather than protesting and raising tension in the king’s court, Daniel approached the situation with a request.
“But Daniel resolved not to defile himself with the royal food and wine, and he asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself this way. Now God had caused the official to show favor and compassion to Daniel, but the official told Daniel, “I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink. Why should he see you looking worse than the other young men your age? The king would then have my head because of you.”
“Daniel then said to the guard whom the chief official had appointed over Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink. Then compare our appearance with that of the young men who eat the royal food, and treat your servants in accordance with what you see.” So he agreed to this and tested them for ten days.”(Daniel 1:11-14)
Notice the approach that Daniel takes with the king’s servant. Daniel asked the chief official for permission not to defile himself in this way (Daniel 1:8) If a leader desires to influence those around him, how people are approached is essential. Daniel did not come at the servant of the king in an arrogant and prideful fashion. He asked for permission.
Helpful Leadership Grows Out of Listening
Daniel’s approach also recognized that change is not easy. The official servant who was responsible for Daniel and his three friends had some anxiety about the request. He told Daniel,“I am afraid of my lord the king, who has assigned your food and drink.” (Daniel 1:10)
There will be times when a leader will need to call for change. Change is not always easy, but listening is essential. Winston Churchill once said, “Courage is what it takes to stand up and speak; courage is also what it takes to sit down and listen.” Daniel’s ability to hear what was being said to him showed a definite skill in leadership.
Listening is a powerful skill for any leader.
Helpful Leadership Has A Clear Strategy Plan
As he presented his suggestion, he also had a strategy. Daniel said, “Please test your servants for ten days: Give us nothing but vegetables to eat and water to drink.” This suggestion was not an overwhelming request. Daniel was not asking for a month or a year. His request was simple and was not overwhelming to the servant of the king.
As Daniel asked for this ten-day period, he also had a plan for the diet of all four men. His request for water and vegetables was simple. For any leader to influence and be able to maintain their spiritual convictions, a clear strategy plan must be defined.
After Daniel was allowed to follow his beliefs, and he was able to use his leadership skills, the Bible gives a clear statement of what took place:
“At the end of the ten days they looked healthier and better nourished than any of the young men who ate the royal food. So the guard took away their choice food and the wine they were to drink and gave them vegetables instead.” (Daniel 1:15)
In thinking about the events that these four men experienced, there was some definite teaching regarding leadership influence and personal convictions. Billy Graham put it best when he said, “When wealth is lost, nothing is lost; when health is lost, something is lost; when character is lost, all is lost.”
The book of Daniel tell us that Daniel never lost his helpful leadership influence. This was the result of his spiritual convictions. Therefore, he never lost his character.