It was a watershed day for everyone—a whole new life had begun! The Israelites got off to a fresh start when they affirmed the covenant God had offered them.
To make it work, however, they discovered they would have to change their lifestyles and shift their paradigms—and that would take shrewd leadership. Sometimes (as in the desert) the majority even wanted to return to Egypt!
Peter Drucker helps us to learn from Moses about how to lead people into change, even in the wilderness:
Lessons from the Wilderness
1. Magnify the plagues. To make Pharaoh release God’s people, Moses called down the plagues, and he didn’t stop until the old system gave way. At this stage, problems are your friend. Don’t solve them; they convince people that they need to let go of the old way.
2. Mark the ending. What a symbolic and memorable “boundary event” Moses had in the crossing of the Red Sea! After his people walked through the waters on dry land, there was no turning back.
3. Deal with the “murmuring.” Don’t be surprised when some lose confidence in your leadership somewhere between where they came from and where they’re going. Moses heard things like, Does our leader know the way? We’ve never done it this way before! What was so bad about Egypt? In times of transition, look for opportunities to show concern for how your people feel; interact with the strugglers.
4. Give people access to decision makers. Thanks to Jethro, Moses appointed a new cadre of leaders to narrow the gap between the people and the decision makers. As a result, the people felt more connected.
5. Capitalize on the creative opportunity of the wilderness. It was in the wilderness, not the Promised Land, that a big innovation took place: God handed down the Ten Commandments. Some of your biggest breakthroughs will also take place in the wilderness.
6. Resist the urge to rush ahead. It often seems that little happens in the wilderness, but great transformation takes place there. Don’t jeopardize it by hurrying ahead or removing the pain of giving birth to a new vision. Let God do His work.
7. Understand that “wilderness leadership” is special. Moses did not enter the Promised Land. His kind of leadership fit the transition time, where things seemed confusing and fluid. The nation needed Joshua to enter Canaan, because he led the military, and because a settled life required new skills. Movements and organizations don’t always need a new leader, but they do require a new style of leadership once the transition is complete.