Biblical Case Studies

HISTORY, and not just the recent variety, is one of the best teachers of leadership lessons, says Bruce L. Payne, director of the Leadership Program at Duke University in Durham, N.C. The Bible has a lot to offer, he says. ``I always teach I and II Samuel, with their stories about David, Saul, and Joab, David's henchman,'' he says. ``Those struggles in leadership are some of the best case studies there are.''

To illustrate the tug-of-war between personal and political considerations, he often recounts David's mental struggles in suppressing the rebellion of his son Absalom.

King David wants the uprising defeated, but loves Absalom and doesn't want him harmed. When Joab catches him trying to flee the battle, he slays the young man. Joab returns to camp and finds David sitting, grieving at the gate.

Dr. Payne continues the story:

``Joab says to David, `Your people will think that you had rather they died than your son. `What are you doing? You're the king here; you should be celebrating.' So David takes off his robes of grieving and goes to celebrate with the people. His role as a human being is one thing, his role as the king is another. There's a terrible, awful strain in that, and that's the kind of strain that in some way you face when you take on public responsibility.

``Joab may be right about the question of [David's] responsibility, but he's wrong about [the importance of] not crying. What you try to learn is not how to root out your personal feelings, but how to find some space for them. If you teach that story alongside some stories of presidential leadership, it's a good marker, a good reminder of the dangers. You can lose your soul trying to meet organizational responsibilities.''

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