A good working definition of leadership is influence. Every leader has influence: good or bad, positive or negative.
How do you know if you’re a leader? If you have followers, you’re a leader. If you have no followers, you’re not. Jesus was history’s greatest leader. He said, “Come, follow me.” The best followers usually make the best leaders.
Such is the case with Joshua. Before Joshua had leadership he had “follower-ship.” He was mentored under Moses’ administration. Joshua is now at the helm of Israel. Joshua proved to be a new and exciting leader. Joshua was a decision maker, a disciple maker, and a difference maker. It’s been said many times before, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” (Maxwell)
Israel has new leadership and new land. The people have crossed Jordan into Canaan’s fair land. Finally, at last, the Israelites have inherited their promised land. Soon after however, trouble came. There was a land dispute.
This conflict threatened a civil war among the people of God. How would Joshua handle the disagreement? Leaders should handle conflict with clear communication. A failure to communicate usually leads to misunderstanding. An open line of communication is crucial. Joshua demonstrates how leaders should confront a problem with integrity and seek reconciliation.
Moses had granted the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh a portion of territory on the east side of Jordan. They had to agree to help their nation conquer Canaan and then they would be allowed to inhabit their land. They were obedient and had done everything required of them. Now they were given permission to return home.
Joshua was in full agreement. He blessed them. “Receive your land with all its wealth and prosperity,” he said.
The Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh built an altar. When the other tribes of Israel heard about the altar, they were angry. The altar seemed to separate the Jewish people. It was believed the Reubenites, Gadites, and half-tribe of Manasseh had rebelled against the God of Israel. The other tribes came to Shiloh with the intent of waging war against them.
Love and listen
Cooler heads seemed to prevail and representatives from all tribes of Israel converged for a peace summit. They came together to hear each other’s side.
Jesus said, “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation; and every city or house divided against itself shall not stand.” (Matt. 12:25) Israel said, “Let’s stay unified. Don’t separate yourselves from us with another altar. There is only one altar and that is the altar of the LORD our God.” Reuben, Gad, and the half-tribe of Manasseh said, “We’re not rebelling against the LORD our God. We built the altar as a witness for the future generation of children. We built the altar not to divide us but to unite us. It’s a link to join us together. We’re on the same team.”
All it took to resolve the situation was a listening meeting to hear each other. Effective leadership hinges on communicating with others.
A solution that honors God
Everyone seemed to be satisfied with the mutual arrangement. Leadership through conflict management produced an amicable resolution. Psalm 133:1 says, “Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brethren to dwell together in unity!”
The Reubenites and Gadites honored God in the testimony and name of their altar. They named the altar “A Witness Between Us – that the Lord is God.” The priest Phineas son of Eleazar declared that the LORD was present among His people and He was honored.
A war was averted and all the people of Israel were glad and God was glorified. Godly leadership points all the praise to God.
Live it out
Walk. A vital part of leadership is the ability to listen. In way of practical application, we ought to make a concerted effort to be better listeners. Jesus said, “He that has ears, let him hear.”
Many times we can’t hear because we’re the ones doing all the talking. We carry out our own agenda and fail to hear those around us. Thus, conflict ensues. Slow down and hear what others have to say. You may be enlightened to hear their viewpoints. The best leaders are the best listeners.
Run. If there is a misunderstanding with others it can lead to a relationship rift. Meaningful long-term friendships have been severed simply by some trivial situation. Again, communication is imperative.
Perhaps you have experienced this personally. Seek to move toward conflict resolution in your own life. Be honest and take responsibility for your actions and possible mistakes. Maybe your perception of a certain situation was faulty and misconstrued. Don’t allow the conflict to permeate.
Reach out to the other individual or parties and communicate with them your desire to resolve the dispute. When the meeting takes place, keep your emotions in tact, be willing to listen more than you speak, and show forgiveness. The Bible teaches this in James 1:19: “Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath…”
Soar. In an even more challenging application, perhaps a mature believer can lead conflict management and ultimate resolution between divided groups. God uses leaders to foster reconciliation. Remember, leaders have influence. That influence can assist in guiding the communication.