An Important Management Lesson From Moses Himself (Yes, That Moses)


The recent Christian Bale movie, Exodus: Gods and Kings, may have disappointed at the box office, but Moses fans can take heart that Cecille B. DeMille’s The Ten Commandments will soon be gracing our television screens as we approach the Easter season.

Though those movies provide entertainment value, there is no denying (well, I’m sure plenty of non-believers may deny) that there is much to learn from Moses as a religious figure and a leader.

But what can entrepreneurs and business leaders learn from the man who spoke with God and took down a powerful Egyptian Pharoah?

Simple: The art of delegation.

In reality, we have Moses’ father-in-law, Jethro, to thank for this lesson.

You see, Moses was a bit overwhelmed. He had just led the Israelites across the Red Sea and into the desert, was given the Ten Commandments and was literally the only one hearing everyone’s complaints and requests. He was also the judge and jury for all “cases” and disputes among the people.

Enter Jethro, who noticed that Moses was getting bogged down, stressed, and burned-out from the micromanagement of his team. Jethro instructed his son-in-law to “look among all the people for able and God–fearing men, trustworthy men who hate dishonest gain, and set them over the people as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens.

He continued:

“Let these render decisions for the people in all routine cases. Every important case they should refer to you, but every lesser case they can settle themselves. Lighten your burden by letting them bear it with you!

If you do this, and God so commands you, you will be able to stand the strain, and all these people, too, will go home content.”

And so, Moses, being a good son-in-law and a smart leader, took the advice to heart:

“He picked out able men from all Israel and put them in charge of the people as commanders of thousands, of hundreds, of fifties, and of tens. They rendered decisions for the people in all routine cases. The more difficult cases they referred to Moses, but all the lesser cases they settled themselves. Then Moses said farewell to his father–in–law, who went off to his own country.”

This, perhaps, is one of the earliest recorded business lessons.

Every leader who manages teams has similar challenges. Teams are meant to spread the work, but they can often create an overwhelming amount of work for managers who don’t delegate.

If Moses can use delegation to relieve himself of the stress of managing an entire nation — you can certainly follow his example to manage your team, no matter the size.

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