Moses: A Study in Leadership

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MosesReggie McNeal has pointed out that there is a leadership vacuum in American culture which not only poses a challenge but threatens the very fabric of society.

This vacuum is a black hole whose gravitational pull of negativity drains creativity and new ideas out of the culture into oblivion.

The culture today is in need of leadership which will reverse this trend.

Leadership Lessons from the Old Testament and Moses

It is not only true of the secular world but also of the church world. One of the more fascinating studies in biblical leadership is provided in the Old Testament by Moses.  Moses was

  • a leader
  • a statesman, and
  • a legislator par excellence. 

The life of Moses can be divided into three parts as God prepared him to lead the children of Israel out of bondage in Egypt.

3 Parts of Moses’ Leadership Development

In the first forty years of his life, Moses lived as Pharaoh’s son which gave him the benefit of the finest training in the world at that time.

In the second forty years of his life spent in Midian, he became a shepherd so that at the proper time he could become the shepherd to the children of Israel.

Thirdly, in his last forty years, he used the lessons learned to lead the children of Israel out of Egypt and to the Jordan River (Lockyer, Herbert, 1958).

God used Moses’ life experiences to shape him into the leader the Lord needed for His people to bring them out of bondage into freedom.

God molded Moses into a charismatic leader with leadership skills in delegation so that he could lead the children of Israel through the wilderness.

The Character Make-up of Moses as a Leader

Moses is an intriguing leader because he was a blend of 3 leadership styles.

  1. charismatic
  2. administrative 
  3. conflict resolution

A careful study of Moses’ temperament, his strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats will give rich application for anyone studying the subject of leadership and leadership development.

Moses’ Leadership Temperament

Moses’ leadership temperament was a blending of the positive and negative. These two temperaments create the strongest of extroverted personalities when combined.

For this reason, Moses exhibited an orientation towards people through his compassionate and tender heart. This got him into trouble when he killed an Egyptian who was beating a Hebrew according to Exodus 2:11-12. When his fellow Hebrews and the Pharaoh condemned him for his action, he fled to Midian.

Moses’ positive temperament provided him with a strong will counteracting the negative temperament of being weak-willed. Also, the compassionate heart of the positive temperament counteracts the ill-tempered tendency towards lacking compassion (Personal Temperament Test: Profile, 2008).

Laws of Leadership Used by Moses

Law of Dreams

As a charismatic leader, the first Law of Leadership used by Moses was the Law of Dreams.

This law states that people will follow a leader who gives them a desirable object or goal. Moses presented the people with a desirable object of the Promised Land where they would be free.

Law of Motivation

The Second Law he used was the Law of Motivation. This law states that people follow leaders who offer reasons to reach for a goal. If a leader provides a practical reason to work, people will follow that leader. Moses offered freedom as the motivation for the people to follow him (Towns, Elmer, 2007).

Law of Rewards

As an administrative leader, the first Law of Leadership used by Moses was the Law of Rewards which is simply that a leader will have followers if that leader will offer rewards to the followers.

Law of Accountability

To have followers, a leader must reward them. Another Law of Leadership used by Moses was the Law of Accountability. Moses observed this law in giving responsibilities to his followers. He gave Aaron the priestly responsibilities and appointed elders to deal with judicial responsibilities. In this way, Moses allowed his followers to contribute to the effort to reach the Promised Land (Towns, Elmer, 2007).

Law of the Picture

Moses exhibited much strength due to his charismatic and administrative leadership style.

First of all, he was able to cast a vision of leaving Egypt to go to the Promised Land. This is a trait of charismatic leadership. A true leader will cast a vision to which their followers embrace (Towns, Elm, 2007). Maxwell refers to this as the Law of the Picture.

People will do what they can envision. Leaders who can paint a picture are not only able to communicate the vision but they model the vision so that the picture comes alive for their followers.

Moses was able to cast the vision for the people because he not only communicated it but he modeled it for them by his boldness before the Pharaoh (Maxwell, John, 1998/2007).

Moses’ encounter with God made him responsive to God’s will in his life. Moses knew leading the Hebrews out of Egypt was a calling upon his life and not a job. Billy Graham has stated it this way,

“When we come to the end of ourselves, we come to the beginning of God” (Shelly, Marshall & Myra, Harold, 2005).

It was at the burning bush where Moses came to the end of himself and the beginning of God. It was time spent with God that gave him insight into God.

According to Exodus 33:18, this intimacy led him to cry out on the mountain,

“I beseech thee, show me thy glory!” (KJV).

It was this relationship that convinced him that though he would face great opposition from Pharaoh, he was convinced that God would give him the victory in pursuing of the calling that God had placed upon his life. He knew that God would empower him with the necessary abilities, talents, and skills necessary to fulfill this calling even when his own people doubted him (Towns, Elmer, 2007).

Law of Victory

Moses endured until the Pharaoh weakened and relented. To commemorate this victory, Moses established a memorial to that great victory. From this he led them from victory to victory (Towns, Elm, 2007). This is the Law of Victory. Stated simply, leaders find a way for the team to win.

An example of this law in action was Winston Churchill as Prime Minister of Great Britain during World War Two. He was unwilling to accept defeat. The idea of losing was alien to his thinking and to his leadership of the nation during the darkest hours of the struggle against Hitler. Churchill would accept nothing less than total victory (Maxwell, John, 2007).

As an administrative leader, Moses showed strength through establishing his reputation with the plagues upon Egypt. Moses enhanced his reputation and credibility as a leader through memorials celebrating victories and recounting those victories through story telling.

As a conflict resolution leader, Moses dealt with internal and external conflicts. He did not take any conflict personally because he knew the battle belonged to God. Also, Moses laid out plans for the people when they came in possession of the Land so there would be less conflict and strife. He knew as a leader there would be conflict in taking the Promise Land and he identified the sources of the conflict his followers would face (Towns, Elmer, 2007).

Personal Weaknesses of Leaders

For Moses, one of the excuses he gave God for not wanting to go down to Egypt to set God’s people free was because he was a “weak-speaker.” His temperament could be defined as one most likely to say something wrong.

Moses also struggled with his “anger-weakness” throughout his life as seen by his killing of the Egyptian in Exodus 2:11-14. He also had to deal with personal anger that caused him to strike the rock rather than speak to the rock for water as described in Numbers 20.   This was an action of anger that prevents him from entering the Promised Land.

Moses is like most people. He needed the constant filling of the Holy Spirit and a close walk with God to deal with personal weaknesses. However, God was able to take his speaking inability and his quick temper to create positive results.

Positive Leadership Opportunities

Though he discounted his speaking ability at the burning bush, every time Moses had an opportunity to speak for God whether before Pharaoh or the people, he did it.

Moses took every opportunity to keep the vision before the people and keep them motivated towards reaching the Promised Land. Moses also took the opportunity to mentor his successor as he took Joshua aside and trained him to be the next leader.

Threats to Leadership and the Advice of Jethro

Moses made sure that the dream of reaching the Promised Land stayed before the people. He knew that he had to be wary of dreams and dreamers beyond the scope of God’s plan. He knew that if distractions took place, then the dream of reaching the Promised Land would never be fulfilled.

On one occasion Moses appeared more organized than he actually was. In Exodus 18  Jethro saw this danger and warned Moses that he was stretched too thin by all the responsibilities he had assumed. Jethro told Moses that he needed to recruit help.  Exodus 18:13-21 says,

The next day Moses took his seat to serve as judge for the people, and they stood around him from morning till evening.  When his father-in-law saw all that Moses was doing for the people, he said, “What is this you are doing for the people? Why do you alone sit as judge, while all these people stand around you from morning till evening?”

Moses answered him, “Because the people come to me to seek God’s will. Whenever they have a dispute, it is brought to me, and I decide between the parties and inform them of God’s decrees and instructions.”

Moses’ father-in-law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone. Listen now to me and I will give you some advice, and may God be with you. You must be the people’s representative before God and bring their disputes to him. Teach them his decrees and instructions, and show them the way they are to live and how they are to behave.  But select capable men from all the people—men who fear God, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain—and appoint them as officials over thousands, hundreds, fifties and tens.

Upon the advice of his father-in-law, Jethro, Moses delegated authority to men selected to be judges to free Moses for more important leadership tasks.

Moses heeded the warning of his father-in-law and appointed men to help him run the administrative side of leading the people.

When Leadership is Accused Falsely

In Numbers 16, Moses dealt with the most serious challenge to his leadership when Korah led a rebellion.

Koran charged that Moses had used the children of Israel to promote his own agenda and build his own kingdom. Moses turned to God knowing the battle belonged to the Lord. Korah and his followers were judged and Moses remained as the leader. However, this story shows very clearly that any leader can and will be challenged, even by those who are trusted.

The Void in Leadership Today

There is a leadership void in our culture and in the church today. To seek answers for this void, it requires for careful study of biblical leadership and application of those lessons.

The study of Moses as a biblical leader is profitable to everyone in a leadership context. Moses was a leader. Everything in his life was used by God to prepare him for the day he would lead the children of Israel out of Egypt.

Moses is a rich model of leadership because he was a combination of the charismatic, administrative, and conflict resolution leadership styles. A careful study of Moses’ temperament and the Laws of Leadership he followed, his strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats will profit any student of leadership.


  • Lockyer, Herbert. (1958). All the Men of the Bible. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
  • Maxwell, John. (2007). The Twenty-one Irrefutable Laws of Leadership: Follow Them an People Will Follow You (2nd ed.). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson. (Original work published 1998)
  • McNeal, Reggie. (1998). Revolution in Leadership: Training Apostles for Tomorrow’s Church. Nashville, TN: Abingdon Press.
  • Personal Temperament Test: Profile. (2008). The 12 Blends of Temperaments from the book “Why You Act The Way You Do” by Tim LaHaye. Retrieved 1 November 2008 from
  • Shelly, Marshall & Myra, Harold. (2005). The Leadership Secrets of Billy Graham. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.
  • Towns, Elmer. (2007). Bblical Models for Leadership. Mason, OH: Cengage Learning.
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