Monday, June 3, 2019

Empowerment of the Boy David

I’ve often advised other leaders about my practice of empowerment: if it’s a low risk, let ‘them’ make the decision; if it’s a high risk, join in the decision-making or reserve it for yourself. And then there’s the story of King David in the Bible, before he’s king. You’re probably familiar with the basics of the story: the shepherd boy, David, accepts the Philistine giant Goliath’s challenge and slays him with a sling and a stone. You might even be familiar with Malcom Gladwell’s take that David couldn’t lose because Goliath was suffering from some physical detriments. (However, Goliath was the champion of the Philistines, meaning that he’d already bested many in his own army.)

I want to look at this from the perspective of King Saul, who was ruling Israel at this time, and the other Israelite leaders. It was a high-risk challenge: whichever champion won, the loser’s army would surrender and become slaves of the other. From an earlier account, there might have been as many as 210,000 soldiers that would have to surrender and be enslaved if David lost. For 40 days, the challenge was repeated and no one on the Israelite side accepted it.

Also, not exactly knowing his age, David is described as ‘only a boy’ and the giant has been ‘a man of war since his youth’. David replies that he believes the Lord God will be with any warrior honoring and protecting His name, and that he’s had some experience defeating bears and lions (‘grabbing a lion by its beard/jaw and beating it to death’)—close in hand-to-paw/jaw combat, not just throwing a spear. Goliath though is an enemy that could launch a javelin with a shaft like a 2”x2”  rod and a spearhead as heavy as any bowling ball (15 pounds).

In an amazing bit of delegation, Saul relents and lets David go face the giant. I don’t know what you’re response would be but mine might have been to tackle this kid before he could taunt Goliath; no way would I let this kid decide if I’m going to be enslaved. I’d want someone else to be out there. Someone who’s done some analysis, had some pertinent experience, has a strategy for success that makes sense would be the one that I’d delegate to. David has none of this. He has chutzpah believing that God will protect those who are doing the right thing. David rejects the conventional plan even; he discards the king’s armor and weaponry that’s proffered.

I have a hard time believing there weren’t at least 10 soldiers, even some of the king’s staff, out of the 210,000 trying to keep this young man from stepping forward. It seems likely that someone tackled him before he broke ranks and confronted the giant.

So imagine that there’s a teenager offering to run one of your multi-million dollar business units against competition like Google (Alphabet), Amazon, General Motors, Exxon Mobil...and he/she has been successful running a gas station. Not only could you lose millions of dollars but you might have lawsuits from shareholders, employees and creditors jeopardizing your parent corporation.

Would you let him/her do it? How many people would be in your office challenging your decision to do it? How many would try and sabotage this young person’s ability to even start? What would you need to hear or see in order to go forward with the proposal? It’s probably a lot more than chutzpah. But how many times have you lost opportunities for a miraculous victory because you only looked at a person’s CV or accounting ledgers? How many times have you tackled the upstart who dared risk your livelihood on a scheme only they could see the path to success?

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