"Conservatism is the worship of dead revolutions."
Clinton Rossiter

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Leadership Notes -- Thoughts on Leading People and Making a Difference in Organizations

Word count this issue: 394

Estimated reading time:  2.0 minutes


I am doing some research for a piece I’m writing for my ‘church land’ work.  The Hebrew Bible story I am working with is one of the Bible’s more disturbing, and painfully human stories. It is also a fascinating look at ethics and leadership. http://bible.oremus.org/?version=nrsv&passage=2+Samuel+11:1-15 


David, the King, sees a woman, Bathsheba, bathing on the roof. (Yes that is the scene to which Leonard Cohen’s song Halleluia alludes. Here’s a link to kd lang’s live version https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_NpxTWbovE ) David and Bathsheba “lay” together and she conceives. Now they have a problem, because Bathsheba’s husband, Uriah, is at war for David and so cannot possibly be the father of the child. David then tries and fails to get Uriah to sleep with his wife, but the dutiful soldier refuses. Finally David sends word to his General, Joab, via Uriah himself in an agonizing irony, to send Uriah to the front lines and to leave him vulnerable to the enemy’s archers. In short, David orders Joab to kill Uriah.


This story is human because of the place of power, sexuality, action and consequence. It asks us all very deep questions.  It asks equally deep questions for us as leaders.


I often use this story in retreats.  I ask the participants to reflect on a number of questions, including, ‘which character in the story resonates the most with you, at this time?’ One of the most interesting answers was when an elder in a group said, “Joab.”  He then said, “I have been ordered by my bosses to do things to other people I did not want to do.” 


There was a long silence in the group.


I wonder, as you think about your work as a leader, have you found yourself having to follow through on actions that pushed against your own ethics? Have you ordered others to do things that crossed your own, or their ethical boundaries? How did you respond? What lessons did you learn? If you had to do it over, what, if anything would you do differently? 


To explore more, as these questions may get you thinking, just email me at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.