Three lessons you can learn from Elijah about leadership
Paul’s blockbuster summer series, Elijah, Force of Nature, chronicles the epic mission of Elijah to lead the Israelites back to the one true God, Yahweh. Elijah must go head to head with one of the most evil rulers the world has ever seen in fulfilling God’s mission for his life.
An underlying chapter in the epic story of Elijah is the relationship of Elijah and Elisha as mentor and mentee. Their friendship is one of the first biblical references of mentor and mentee and is rich with leadership lessons that are still relevant for us today.
Here are a few lessons I’ve learned from this story about leadership.
We could all be like Elijah and find the time to be a mentor leader.
Here is a question this story has me asking myself: How did Elijah find the time to mentor Elisha while he was on such an epic mission?
With all we have going on in our lives, it’s easy to feel too busy to mentor others. But even though Elijah’s mission from God was enormous, he still took on Elisha as his mentee. With Elisha by his side and aiding him, Elijah completed his mission for God.
When I was a young manager, a senior executive at our headquarters asked if he could spend a few days with my team and work alongside us. After our few days together I learned much from him and we forged a trusting relationship that would last for decades. I am grateful for his mentoring, knowing he could have easily stayed at our headquarters tending to his very important role but went out of his way to mentor me.
We are adequate, right now, to mentor another.
Although Elijah feels incomplete he still mentors Elisha. Here is a great perspective from Andy Stanley on mentoring “the goal is not to fill someone’s cup, it is to empty my cup.”
This frees us from feeling like we need to know everything before we can mentor to accepting that humbly sharing what we have learned is enough. No matter what situation you are in right now, you are perfectly perfect to be a mentor for someone!
We are a success chain of mentors and mentees.
Both Elijah and Elisha benefit from and contribute to each other. Elijah is able to accomplish God’s mission with the help of Elisha, while Elisha is able to develop to his potential and even surpass Elijah as a leader. Mutual contribution and growth is a dynamic that happens when mentors and mentees strive together.
I’ve had the great gift of being mentored by my father in law, Barry Andrews, in our family business over the second course of my career. I’ve learned much from Barry about relationships, generosity, and integrity. We strive together to develop a shared purpose for our organization, which is to serve one another in pursuit of being our best.
The story of Elijah and Elisha energizes me as it gives deeper meaning to how we can serve one another and extend these biblical principles in our leadership practice. Leading others is a very special privilege and I loved reflecting on some of the wisdom found in this story.