LEADERSHIP LESSONS FROM RUTH

BY JOHN C. MAXWELL

Last week, I shared an excerpt from my newest book, Wisdom from Women in the Bible. I’m so excited about this book, because it represents my heart for the Biblical principles of leadership. The excerpt was from the story of Ruth, a courageous and caring woman who made decisions that changed her life and the lives of others.

You can read last week’s excerpt here. Now, I want to continue with the rest of the lessons we can learn from Ruth. This time, we’re focused on leadership:

We hesitate a moment. Which do we want more? To stop Ruth and ask her questions? Or to move forward and meet the next person? We sense our time here is limited and decide to keep walking. As we do, I reflect on what Ruth said and on her story in the Bible. With each step, leadership lessons become clear to me from Ruth’s life:

1. DO WHAT YOU KNOW IS RIGHT, NOT WHAT LOOKS RIGHT TO OTHERS

The logical thing for Ruth to do when her husband died was to go home to her own family and look for a new husband. Naomi suggested she do that. And Ruth’s sister-in-law Orpah followed that advice.

Ruth could have allowed her questions and doubt to influence her to leave Naomi. But instead her heart came to grips with what she believed. She moved from the agony of questions she could not answer to the reality of answers she could not escape. She felt a deep conviction that she was to stay with Naomi. And she followed that conviction.

As leaders we need to remember that. Strong convictions precede great actions. When we know something is right—and that conviction is bolstered by the knowledge that our motives are pure, as Ruth’s were—we need to follow through. Others may second-guess our thinking and our decision-making. But when we know what’s right, we can’t let those things throw us off. We need to stand by our convictions. As Albert Mohler, president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, said, “Convictions are not merely beliefs we hold; they are those beliefs that hold us in their grip.”

2. FOLLOWING YOUR HEART WITH INTEGRITY CAN INCREASE YOUR INFLUENCE WITH OTHERS

Because Ruth followed her heart and went with Naomi to Bethlehem, her influence on others increased. Instead of looking down on her as a foreigner, the Hebrews noticed her and admired her. She gained the favor of Boaz, who told her, “I’ve heard all about you—heard about the way you treated your mother-in-law after the death of her husband, and how you left your father and mother and the land of your birth and have come to live among a bunch of total strangers. GOD reward you well for what you’ve done—and with a generous bonus besides from GOD, to whom you’ve come seeking protection under his wings.”

When Ruth followed her heart and made her decision, she stood out from the beige lives of others. She impressed the people of an entire town, including the elders, who blessed her, declaring,

May GOD make this woman who is coming into your household like Rachel and Leah, the two women who built the family of Israel. May GOD make you a pillar in Ephrathah and famous in Bethlehem! With the children GOD gives you from this young woman, may your family rival the family of Perez, the son Tamar bore to Judah.

By following her heart and doing what she knew was right, Ruth went from being a foreigner to being someone who was respected, blessed, and honored.

When you follow your heart and do the right thing, your leadership potential increases. Leadership is influence, so anything that increases your influence and favor with others makes it easier for you to lead.

3. REMEMBER TO BE HUMBLE AND KEEP WORKING AS GOD BLESSES YOU

When Boaz recognized Ruth and started to bless her, it might have been natural for her to slack off. After all, she was receiving the favor of a relative who had the power to redeem her and the property that had once belonged to Naomi’s husband. But Ruth remained faithful and kept working hard. Scripture says she worked hard before Boaz invited her to eat with him. Afterward she got right back to work and gleaned in the field until evening. And then she threshed what she had gathered before going home. This is the pattern she followed until both the barley and wheat harvests were done.

When God grants you favor as a leader and you receive His blessings, don’t let it go to your head and don’t let up. Keep working. When you have favor and momentum, push ahead. Naomi understood this. When she and Ruth began to receive Boaz’s favor, they didn’t just sit back and enjoy the provisions he made sure they received. Naomi capitalized on them. She told Ruth to lie at Boaz’s feet, as a sign of her desire to seek his protection. And he graciously gave it. He immediately became their advocate.

God wants His people to be recognized by others because of their love. I think we too often forget that. Ruth’s words of wisdom are a good reminder. If we love others and follow our heart in the way we treat everyone, it’s hard to go wrong.

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