Of all the characters in the Bible who rose to the top as a secular leader, Daniel is my favorite. In a totally hostile, godless environment, he became the top official next to a king who basically ruled the world. What were the qualities that put him in that position when enemies everywhere were trying to depose him? He even spent a night with the lions and they still couldn’t get rid of him!
Here are the five qualities I notice most about this powerful man and how to survive the lions:
- Daniel could tell himself, “No.” In chapter 1, he refused the king’s unhealthy diet and stayed with his vegetables and water.
- I find that many current leaders are unable to control their diet, their schedule, their spending, their passions and a host of other essentials to leadership. The ability to say, “No” to yourself is the essence of self-government, and if you can’t govern yourself you surely can’t govern others.
- Discretion is “the wisdom to avoid offense.” Daniel “replied with discretion to Arioch, the captain of the king’s guard” when he was sent to kill Daniel and his friends.
- Leaders with no discretion barge ahead into relationship traps, situations they are not invited to, temptations they should not be exposed to, and poor timing for their purposes. Discretion helps a leader to remain silent when necessary, maintain confidences, measure words carefully, avoid appearances of evil, and listen before speaking.
3. Detachment from money
- Daniel refused the king’s reward for interpreting the handwriting on the wall (Daniel 5: 14).
- Money wields huge influence in the area of integrity. Daniel refused Belshazzar’s money knowing that it would taint his judgment. Leaders should stand at arm’s length from offers of money that come with strings attached to their principles.
4. Consistency in prayer
- Three times a day, like clockwork, Daniel opened his window and prayed toward Jerusalem (Daniel 6: 10). It even got him thrown in a lion’s den, but he still would not stop!
- Daniel established a consistent devotional life as the bedrock of his administration. As busy as we think we are, Daniel was busier!
5. Fasting and intercession
- Daniel prayed and fasted for 21 days at a time, engaging the “spirit of Persia” and defeating it.
- Often, we are unaware that spiritual forces are behind the confusion, the chaos, and the division we encounter as leaders. We must learn the first principle of spiritual warfare: People are not your enemy.
I have worked hard to maintain these five principles in my leadership: Self-control. Discretion. Detachment from money. Consistency in prayer. Fasting and intercession. They are certainly not all there is to leadership, but they form a great foundation for how to be a long-term leader.
Which of these five qualities do you struggle with the most and what do you plan to change in that area?