[management by God] the 7 biggest mistakes of a self-centered leader

Written by Dan King

Christ-follower. husband. father. author of the unlikely missionary: from pew-warmer to poverty-fighter. co-author of activist faith: from him and for him. director of family ministry at st. edward's episcopal church. president of fistbump media, llc.

December 7, 2010

Succeeding in the workplace usually takes a great deal of talent. However, you can excel at all of the technical areas of your job, but never see the advancement and growth within your organization if you don’t have certain leadership qualities.

This is the case with Abimelech.

Abimelech was the son of Gideon (a.k.a. Jerubbaal which means “contender with Baal”), and his successor as Judge. Gideon was a great leader and had done a lot of good for Israel during his time.

Abimelech had a short reign as a judge, mostly because of his self-centeredness. Let’s take a look at the mistakes that he made as he worked his way into leadership…

1. He had an unhealthy fixation on position
During this time of Israel’s history judges ruled the land. But as Abimelech took his leadership role, he had himself installed as a “king”. But worse than that, he had just assumed that one (or all) of Gideon’s sons would be Israel’s next leader. To the best of my knowledge, the judges were not put in place by bloodline, but by God’s appointment. So Abimelech had his sights set on a position that technically wasn’t his, and even elevated it to a higher status than what it really was.

2. He thought more of himself than he ought (a.k.a. arrogance)
Of course he had all of the skills that he needed. In fact he was a great communicator because it was with his speech that he convinced people to move him into this role. But, if you have to convince people that you should be their leader, then you’re not their leader. He was the son of the great Gideon, but so what…   a dash of humility goes a long way…

3. He tuned out God (a.k.a. disobedience)
I know that for a non-religious reader, this one might not make much sense, but hear me out…   This may have been one of his biggest mistakes. God was the one that was in control of who gets leadership positions in ancient Israel. But Abimelech didn’t bother to seek out God’s direction or approval of this. Whether it’s God in the religious sense, or the senior leadership of an organization, it’s important to seek the counsel and approval of higher management and listen to what their will is. They’re there for a reason…

4. He manipulated the system
Trust me…   I would never have my mom go into a job interview for me! But that’s what Abimelech did! He convinced key members of his family to go for this crazy idea of his, and then sent his mom in to make the speech to the rest of the decision makers. I can just imagine this dude kicking back while he manipulates other people into getting him the job that he wanted. Actually, I’ve seen it happen at work too…

5. He failed to surround himself with the right people
The text indicates that he surrounded himself with “worthless and reckless men.” If Abimelech wanted to grow into a great leader, then he needed to surround himself with other great people. We all know that we are (and become) like the people that we hang out with. Abimelech inevitably brought himself down by surrounding himself with the wrong people. Some people hang out with “lesser” people in order to help themselve feel elevated above others. I sense a little insecurity…

6. He forced his way into securing his leadership
This is probably one of the most repulsive things that Abimelech did. After stepping into his new job, he eliminated the competition. Literally, he killed all of his 70 brothers (one did get away) in order to get rid of any other claim to his “throne.” If you feel that threatened by other people, especially those closest to you, then you’re probably not the right guy for the role. Again, doesn’t this smell like insecurity?

7. He failed to think of long-term consequences
Abimelech’s reign only lasted for three years, and God eventually had His say in the matter. The biggest problem with self-centeredness is that it’s short-sighted. Abimelech’s fight to get into the position caused him to only think about what it took to get there, and not the longer-term effects of his actions.

Pushing to get yourself into a position that you think that you deserve may work for the short-term, but eventually people will catch on. Achieving solid, long-term success requires a selfless perspective and the heart of someone who simply wants what’s best for the organization. If you approach it right, you may find yourself in a leadership role whether the title’s there or not. These are the true leaders that make everything tick.

See more from the management by God series!


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[management by God] the 7 biggest mistakes of a self-centered leader

by Dan King time to read: 4 min