Everything you need to know about leadership in a single verse

My most basic, and simplest, definition of leadership is: A leader is a person who takes people from where they are to someplace else. The leader sees something in the future that is better than what is in the present and has a strong desire to go there and not go by himself/herself, but take others along on the journey. For the Christian leader, this should be a God-given vision that the Lord has made clear to the leader; however He does that.

I see this definition clearly laid out in a single verse regarding Moses and what God communicated to him.

“But now go, lead the people to the place about which I have spoken to you; behold, my angel shall go before you. Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”   Exodus 32:34 (ESV)

I see excellent leadership principles in this single and  instructive, verse:


Foundational to leadership is regularly and carefully listening to God. Jesus said in John 10 that his sheep hear his voice and follow him. This is generally true for all Christ-followers, but is especially critical for those leading Christ-followers. The number one responsibility in the leader’s job description is to listen for the voice of God regarding where God wants to take His people. This verse tells us that God spoke to Moses about a place he wanted Moses to take the people: in this case, the place was the Promised Land.


The Promised Land was a specific, geographic, real, and physical place to which Moses was to lead God’s people. In other cases it may be a financial destination, a goal, an idea whose time has come, such as starting a new work, implementing a new idea or concept or targeting a specific group of people or addressing a particular need in the community.

The vision has a better chance of sticking when people know exactly what it is they are being led to do, be or achieve. The more specific the destination, the more excitement will be generated. As Zig Zigler said, “If you aim at nothing, you’ll hit it every time!” In most cases in the Bible, when God speaks about something in the future that he wants to do, it has been clear and specific; build a boat, build a temple, repair a wall, carry the Gospel to the Gentiles, etc.


When God speaks to the leader, he wants obedience; not “I’ll think about it,” or “I agree with it,” or “not right now, maybe later.” The verse is clear. The word to Moses is clear: “But now go, lead the people.” Leaders are to lead and not be afraid to take people to a different place–a place that everyone (including the leader) might be fearful to go to. Leaders make decisions, develop strategies build teams, implement ideas and follow up to see that the ball is moving down the field; go and lead!


God will be with both the leader and with the people being led: “…my angel shall go before you.”

We don’t come up with our own idea of where to take the people and we don’t depend on our own gifts, personality or experience in taking them there either. I love 1 Corinthians 15:10 in The Message regarding this,

“But because God was so gracious, so very generous, here I am. And I’m not about to let his grace go to waste. Haven’t I worked hard trying to do more than any of the others? Even then, my work didn’t amount to all that much. It was God giving me the work to do, God giving me the energy to do it.”  Emphasis added

I have prayed over this verse for years regarding my own leadership. I desire to both be led by him and  be empowered by him.


The people (and the leader) will undoubtedly sin on their way to the God-given destination: “Nevertheless, in the day when I visit, I will visit their sin upon them.”

Every leader I know of, and every group of people whom these less-than-perfect leaders led sinned along the journey; but they still continued on. Sin is no reason to quit or to give up on the God-given destination.

There will be disobedience, rebellion, sexual, financial and relational missteps; but that is no reason for the leader not to lead people to the place God has made clear. 

“…but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Romans 5:8 (ESV)

In the midst of our sin and rebellion, Jesus still takes us to the place the Father has prepared for us. Sin is dealt with on the Cross and the journey to our ultimate destination continues.

Current leader, or potential leader:

  • Make it a priority to hear from God
  • Listen carefully for his vision for you and for the people you are leading, or will be leading
  • Don’t be fearful or hesitant, but go…lead
  • Be assured that the triune God is with you and those you lead
  • Know that God will deal with sin in your life and in the lives of those you lead. Accept this, own it, deal with I, but keep pressing forward