I recently spent a beautiful autumn day at the zoo with my grandchildren. An unspoiled day that was complete with perfect weather and just the right amount of people --- scarce. (I’m not a huge fan of crowds.)
We spent the day meandering through the zoo and enjoying the diversity and magnificence of God’s creation. The more rare and exotic the better for my taste; but on this particular day, my attention was drawn to the common elephant. The zoo had 4 female elephants and an informational placard that discussed the importance of their matriarch. I found it fascinating that the herd’s very survival rested on the leadership abilities of this single female.
An elephant herd typically comprises of six to twelve elephants, and is led by the wisest and oldest female, known as the “matriarch.” You can easily identify the matriarch because the herd will gather around her closely and will follow by walking behind her in single file fashion with the youngest elephants grasping their mothers’ tails with their little trunks.
The herd relies on the matriarch to lead and make decisions regarding the course of action for the group. A good matriarch has the experience and knowledge to remember the location of good resources especially during droughts, she determines who is part of the herd’s social network for modeling of behavior to the younger members, and she will also determine how and when the herd will defend themselves against predator attacks. The matriarch is the “model” for behavior and action. The herd looks to her exclusively for decisions that impact the survival and success of their group.
She “leads by example.”
A leader is defined as “the one in charge, the person who convinces other people to follow. A great leader inspires confidence in other people and moves them to action.”
I find it an interesting parallel that in both the animal and human worlds, the mark of a great leader is tied to “action.”
A great example can be found in the Book of Judges, Deborah--
“Now Deborah, a prophet, the wife of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided.” - Judges 4:4-5 (NIV)
Deborah was not only a Prophetess (one who speaks for God) but also a Judge (leader) in Israel. In fact, Deborah was the first and only female Judge of Israel. She was wise, respected and demonstrated a strong belief in God; so much so the people flocked to her to settle disputes and solicit advice. She held “court” beneath a palm tree in the open air and would boldly proclaim God’s law and implore the people to turn from their selfish ways and return to God. She was also instrumental in a major military campaign demonstrated by a hymn recorded in the Bible, The Song of Deborah (Judges 5:1-31) which celebrates the victory that was achieved through the efforts of two women: Deborah and Jael.
Despite living in a patriarchal society (that overall devalued women), Deborah was revered and successfully led Israel for 40 years! She demonstrated a heart for God and actions that signified a humble spirit that was obedient, faithful, wise and instrumental in influencing those around her.
She gained the respect of the people through her Godly attitude and actions in turn allowing her to be a successful leader.
Just like the heroines, Esther and Ruth that I spoke about in my preceding blogs, actions are foundational .
So, whether you are an elephant or a human-- actions seem to always speak louder than mere words.
Leadership is more than just talk; it's all about the walk.
Accordingly, are you an effective leader in your sphere of influence?
If you looked behind you is anyone following?
Father, I'm praying that you will rise up godly women to be true leaders not only in this country but in our everyday lives. May you instill within us a spirit that is passionate for you. A spirit that models integrity, wisdom, discernment and obedience. May our actions demonstrate our walk with you and may they speak volumes to make positive changes in this world for your glory.
Who is wise and understanding among you? Let them show it by their good life, by deeds done in the humility that comes from wisdom.- James 3:13