When most of us think of characters in the Bible, we think of men. David and Goliath. Moses. Abraham. Jesus. The list goes on. Many of the prominent figures from the ancient text are indeed male. However, the Bible is a big book (or collection of books). Woven throughout the pages are some fairly significant female characters who left their mark in history through their leadership qualities.
1. Eve: Leaders are the target for temptation
Now, most of us know that it was Eve who was tempted by the serpent in the garden of Eden to eat the forbidden fruit in Genesis 3. What is often overlooked is that her husband, Adam, was with her and didn’t say a word. My point here is that the wily serpent knew who the influential one was in the relationship–the woman. The lesson for leaders is that temptation, whether it be from of unethical behavior, unfair allegations, or anything else, is going to go straight to the top. It is the leaders who must face the challenges and make difficult choices.
2. Rebekah: Leaders are always willing to give
In Genesis 24, when a servant goes out to seek a bride for Isaac, he selects her based on how she responds to him asking her for a drink of water from her water jar. She not only offers him a drink but also offers to water his camels as well. Leaders give when they are asked…and give more than they are asked for. They put the needs of others before their own.
3. Tamar: Leaders confront hypocrisy
The Bible isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. There are some pretty twisted stories. In Genesis 38, Tamar dresses up as a prostitute and is visited by her father-in-law, Judah. After securing some of Judah’s possessions as payment, Judah goes on his way not knowing exactly who he had slept with. Later, when Tamar is found pregnant out of wedlock, Judah quickly calls for her execution. And what does Tamar do? She shows everyone the possessions that she had collected from Judah! In non-Biblical language, the guy admitted that he was an idiot. The lesson for leaders here is that they won’t hesitate, no matter who it is, to point out foul play. Leaders aren’t afraid to expose hypocrisy.
4. Miriam: Leaders look out for the helpless
In Exodus 2, when a decree is sent out from Egypt for all newborn Israelite males to be slain, Miriam saves her brother Moses by helping him to be raised in Pharaoh’s household. The lesson? Leaders don’t side with bullies. They defend the defenseless. As Thomas Carlyle once said, “A great man shows his greatness by the way he treats little men.”
5. Deborah: Leaders inspire their followers
Deborah is the only female to have ever led the Israelite people, and she is known as one of their most noble leaders. In Judges 4, Deborah selects a general to lead the charge against a kingdom the Israelites are seeking to conquer. In the heat of battle, Deborah cheers him on, assuring him that the victory is already theirs. Great leaders know nothing of negativity. Leaders are cheerleaders. They encourage, motivate, and inspire their followers with supportive words.
6. Ruth: Leaders demonstrate loyalty
In Ruth 1, Naomi’s husband and two sons die and she is left with just her daughters-in-law. She encourages them to return to their home countries. One gladly obliges, but the other–Ruth–refuses to leave her side and says one of the most poetic things in the Bible, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God.” How’s that for loyalty? Leaders show that same kind of devotion to the people who have helped shape them. Leaders don’t forsake their mentors, coaches, or managers when opportunity arises. Leaders are loyal to those who once lead them.
7. Esther: Leaders have the courage to face kings
In Esther 7, Esther, an Israelite, is taken as one of the king’s wives. Haman, a leader appointed by the king, seeks to annihilate the Israelites. When she finds out the man’s plot, and although it may mean sticking her own neck on line, Esther musters up the courage to approach the king and call Haman out for his treachery. Leaders see no one as too important to talk to. Leaders see nothing as too daunting to face. Leaders can approach anyone and anything with confidence in the name of serving their people.
8. Mary of Nazareth: Leaders embrace great opportunities
When Mary is approached in Luke 1 and told that she will be giving birth to the Messiah that had been prophesied about for so long, she willingly accepts the responsibility. “I will do according to your word,” she says to the angel who breaks the news to her. Leaders approach great opportunities with willingness and enthusiasm. Leaders know that the greater the possibility there is for failure, the greater the opportunity there is for success. Leaders take on the opportunities that present themselves.
9. Mary Magdalene: Leaders are the first to know
Mary Magdalene was one of Jesus’s closest followers. And, when Jesus had risen from the dead in Luke 24, she was among the first to have seen the empty tomb. It was because of her and those with her that Jesus’s core disciples found out that he had arisen. The lesson for leaders here is that they are experts in their field. They know when all the important things first happen, so that they can pass them on to their people. Leaders are eager students. They are great seekers of knowledge. They learn all they can, so that they are better equipped to share with their followers.
10. Mary, Sister of Martha: Leaders aren’t too busy for what’s important
A story is told in Luke 10 of the sisters Mary and Martha. When Jesus comes to visit them, Martha busies herself with household chores while Mary sits at the feet of Jesus to learn. When Martha complains to Jesus that she’s doing all the work, Jesus encourages her to be more like Mary “for Mary has chosen the good part.” What’s the point? Martha busied herself with trivial matters while Mary sought after what was most important. Leaders know how to prioritize. They don’t let themselves get bogged down with the little things. They stay focused on the important things in life.
11. Priscilla: Leaders criticize with tact
In Acts 18, when a prestigious preacher is leaving something important out of his teaching, Priscilla (along with her husband) take the man aside and “explain to him the way of God more accurately.” Instead of interrupting his message and subjecting him to public shame, they tactfully took him aside and corrected him in private. Leaders follow this example. They don’t call out their people and put them on the spot. They don’t want their people to be humiliated. They want them to improve. So, leaders always criticize in private.
12. Lois: Leaders look generations into the future
Lois is mentioned in 2 Timothy 1 as the grandmother of Timothy, a pupil of Paul who becomes a preacher in the New Testament. Timothy, whose father was Greek, was exposed to much secular influence but, because of Lois’ instruction, was able to come to knowledge of the Christian faith. My point? Lois was not only concerned with the here and now but also with the generations following her. Timothy would not be who he was were it not for Lois. Leaders have the same vision. They see a world that they are leaving behind, not only the one they are living in. Leaders make choices to develop more prosperous future generations after they are gone.
So, there you have it! These great women of the Bible teach us lessons on leadership that are still applicable today. Have you had any experience in implementing these lessons in your life? Do you see any additional lessons that could apply? Write them down and go back to them often – use them in your daily lives!