The Book of Leviticus on Leadership

Leviticus 19:13 is interesting: “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him.”

What does this have to do with leadership?

It’s simple. Command and control leadership is an oppressive way to lead. Authoritarian leadership is a form of oppression. And this verse says “you shall not oppress your neighbor.” While the implications of this verse go far beyond leadership, they do pertain to leadership. If you lead in a way that oppresses your people, you are not leading in accord with this verse.

Am I being too extreme to call authoritarian leadership a form of oppression?

Obviously some forms of oppression are worse than others. I’m not classifying authoritarian leadership with slavery or other such things, which are clearly far more severe.

But as Christians we are to reject all forms of oppression. And authoritarian leadership is a subtle form of oppression because it does not seek the good of those being led. It views the leader as the one knowing all the answers, and the followers as existing to primarily carry out the will and desires of the leader. Instead of seeing his people as having initiative and ability to unleash, he sees them simply as tools. That is a failure to build people and serve them and, yes, it is a form of oppression.

I am not saying that clear, decisive leadership is a form of oppression. I’m not even saying that it is wrong for a leader to get in the details on things and seek to uphold high standards in how things are done.

Rather, we are primarily getting at a heart issue here. Is your aim in leading to serve and build others up in the accomplishment of the mission? Or do you see others merely as a tool to accomplish your aims?

There’s a big difference. That difference plays itself out in varying leadership styles, but at root and most important is your motive. Why are you even leading at all?