Samuel Style Leadership Versus the Saul Style of Autocratic Leadership

A lot of people have written to me in the last few days asking me to share more about the Saul Syndrome. Rather than focus on a negative leadership style, I would prefer to share about the positive strengths, the life-giving strengths, of Samuel's leadership, and in the days and weeks to come, I will write and podcast more about David's leadership. I have learned a lot about the strengths of Samuel in his interactions with Saul and David in first seventeen chapters of 1 Samuel. Below are some of those qualities, what I am calling the "Samuel Style" of leading. Samuel was a man trained in God's School of Leadership. He was a man who responded early to the voice of God - and he not only obeyed God, but he internalized that obedience into an inner security and confidence that allowed him to lead in a godly, confident, strong style of leadership.

1 and 2 Samuel is about leadership.... and 1 Samuel 17 is a unique and special chapter about leadership. David followed in the footsteps of Samuel...he followed in the footsteps of his mentor, in the “Samuel Style” of proactive leadership. The “Samuel Style” of leadership teaches us that leadership is primarily a mindset, an attitude, a healthy self-confidence that is imparted to others. People can hold a leadership position, but without this mindset, a person becomes a keeper of the prison walls, not an innovator and creator and liberator with God.

The Samuel Style type of leader is someone who has clarity about his or her own God given life purpose and goals, and therefore, someone who doesn’t become confused or lost in the emotions of others swirling about them. The Samuel Style leader is a person who can separate from others while remaining connected to them, they have their own identity but can connect to the hearts of other people by respecting them, engaging with them in healthy debate, loving them, and seeing their strengths – as well as their weaknesses. Samuel Style leaders build bridges of loving respect between themselves and other people.

A Samuel Style leader has a healthy self-confidence in the sense that they know who they are and what they want to do in life. That enables them to maintain a Godly, emotionally healthy perspective on what God is up to in their nation, their culture, their city or neighborhood, their church and their work or family. They don’t get thrown off-balance by the emotional issues of others, including those who are corrupt or violent or victims. They are able to manage well their own responses to the responses and reactions of people. Therefore, they are able to take stands at the risk of displeasing others without becoming manipulative. No one does this easily, but most leaders who are healthy, inspiring leaders this ...and continually improve their capacity to do it.

When a self-directed, initiative taking, imaginative person is consistently being frustrated and sabotaged by others around them, like Saul did to David, we can be sure they are surrounded by Saul-Syndrome people who are highly anxious risk-avoiders. They are fearful, insecure, reactive, and anxious. These are persons who are more concerned with good feelings than progress and breakthroughs...they hold others hostage by the “victim” mentality of their culture, often because they themselves are being held-hostage by victims.

David was a man who was not a prisoner or victim of the armies raging against his nation, nor was he a prisoner of other people’s insecurities and relational issues, nor of the giant who was defying him and his people. He was not held hostage by the overpowering presence of fearful leadership modeled by Saul. David was a leader, a confident, imaginative person who followed the example of Samuel.

Samuel Style Leaders:

1. Confident in themselves – they know their own goals and purpose

2. Permission giving to others

3. Values based – Samuel style leaders don’t rely on rules and policies but values and relationships, they don’t try to control behavior but teach values behind behavior

4. Positive and encouraging - Samuel style leaders see the potential in others, like a young David, people that others overlook

5. Lead by an inner sense of what God is saying to them – and encourage others to hear God for themselves as well

6. Not sabotaged by the relational issues of other people – they carry on obeying God and pursuing the goals they have in life and don't let the emotional swirl of unhealthy relationships around them undermine them

7. They don’t make the problems of others their problems, and they don’t allow others to make their personal problems their problems

8. They take responsibility for themselves and allow others to do the same Samuel learned his style leadership even though God placed him under Eli, a weak and ungodly older leader. Samuel learned true submission, not the doormat kind of doing anything a leader asks of you without thinking for yourself.

Godly submission is an attitude of respect, honor and willingness to serve another person. SUBMISSION IS NOT being CONTROLLED, but submission doesn’t have good fruit in our lives until we can obey leaders when we disagree with them, without making a big fuss about it.

Healthy submission allows us to connect to the heart a leader and follow what they ask of us out of respect for them. Submission is not blind obedience, but an attitude of honor and respect. With this kind of submission, you can submissive, or what God has called you to do.

If a leader is an autocratic, controlling leader, at some point, God frees us from that leader, like God freed Samuel from Eli and freed David from Saul. We can tell the difference between godly, strong willed, assertive leaders like David and Samuel, and a controlling, autocratic leader like Saul, by contrasting the lives of Samuel and Saul, or contrasting the leadership style of Saul and David. Just because a leader is assertive and strong willed does not mean they are controlling.

Both Samuel and David were strong leaders who expected submission, but they were not controlling leaders. The qualities of a Samuel Style leader I describe above will help you set goals for yourself for being a healthy, confident, godly leader, and not a controlling leader. Being secure in who you are in Christ is the most important thing you can do to be that kind of leader.