The story of Naaman has an interesting leadership lesson for us today. Naaman was the commander-in-chief of the ancient Syrian army. He was a man with both position and power. By all earthly standards, Naaman was a recognized leader: he had worldly abilities, fame, respect and authority.
However, Naaman had a really big problem. He had leprosy. In that day and time, leprosy was an awful incurable disease. It required total isolation from everyone for fear of spreading the dreaded disease. And it is really hard to be a leader when you have to be isolated from everyone that you are leading.
Can you just imagine for a few minutes how Naaman must have felt? I am not talking about the leprosy here, I am talking about the isolation! He was a highly respected man at the peak of his military career. He had important obligations and responsibilities. Today would say he had stuff to do. People looked up to him. And those in his employ or under his command obeyed without question. Again, just imagine being in his position only to be stricken with a terrible and highly contagious disease that made you remain apart from your family and your work.
Naaman became desperate for healing. He went to his king and received permission to travel to Israel to see a prophet that he had heard could heal him named Elisha. Not only did his king give him permission to go, he also gave him a letter of introduction to the king of Israel. The letter introduced Naaman as a faithful servant to the king and it asked that he be healed of his leprosy. However, Elisha was not a recognized leader to Naaman.
So Naaman started out on his journey, bringing along gifts of gold, silver and clothing to give in exchange for his healing.
When Naaman arrived at Elisha’s house, after visiting the king of Israel, Elisha sent a messenger out to tell Naaman that Elisha would not see him personally. Instead Elisha gave instructions for Naaman to go wash himself seven times in the Jordan River and he would be healed. Naaman had to be thinking to himself, “That can’t be right!” The solution to Naaman’s problem seemed simple enough. And perhaps it was too simple because this angered Naaman and he went away fuming at Elisha for this indignant response to someone as important as he believed himself to be.
Naaman was ticked off because Elisha hadn’t even come out and spoken to him personally. Instead he sent a lowly servant with the message. He was ticked off because he expected Elisha to perform some sort of grand gesture, burn some incense, dance around, hoot and holler and make a big spectacle of it all. Naaman was ticked off because he was told to wash in the muddy Jordan River. He could not believe that he had travelled all that far for such a silly solution.
His entourage that had travelled with him tried to reason with him. They said “Look, you would’ve done any great or difficult thing the prophet would have asked you to do wouldn’t you? So why not just go ahead and obey him when he has told you to do something so simple?” So Naaman finally did what Elisha told him and he went and dunked himself seven times in the Jordan River. And when he did, he was healed just as Elisha had said. The Bible says that his skin became as healthy and clear and soft as that of a baby.
So what leadership lesson can we learn from this story?
- Don’t Let Your Ego Get in the Way!
Even the great need some help from time to time. Each of us will face something (if not many things) in life that are bigger than we can handle on our own.
- Sometimes We Have to Do What Doesn’t Make Sense.
Far too often, we try to make things far more complicated than what they really are. And sometimes the solution that is presented to us doesn’t make sense. But why not give it a try? What do you have to lose?
- Just Do It!
Finally, we just need to do what we are told to do if we want to be successful.
Here is the leadership principle.
Face up to reality if you have leadership leprosy. You already know you have it. The signs are obvious and all around you. So, ask for help. Go to someone who can help you. Or, if someone comes to you and offers to help, take it!
That is what real leaders do.
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