06/05/2012 01:06 pm ET Updated Aug 05, 2012

Flawed Leaders of the Old Testament

Why are there so many disastrous leadership decisions in the private and public sector? The Old Testament contains examples of flawed leaders and their tragic mistakes. Here are six examples that the reader may expand:

1. King David committed adultery and murder. The comments of Nathan suggests greed was at the root of the problem when he states that God said: "If all this had been too little, I would have given you even more" (II Samuel 12:8). While some may say that greed is good, typically it is a destructive addiction that will cause disastrous wars or an over-leveraged portfolio that crashes.

2. King Rehoboam consulted the wrong inner circle of advisers. "Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him" (I Kings 12:8). He arrogantly increased the burden on the people, "my father scourged you with whips; I will scourge you with scorpions" (I Kings 12:11), so that rebellion was the only option. An isolated leader who only hears an inner circle is in danger.

3. King Uzziah had great military success "but, after Uzziah became powerful, his pride led to his downfall" (II Chronicles 26:16). He attempted prohibited priestly functions and raged against those who confronted him. His health failed and his son took charge of the government. Pride causes a leader to overlook the limitations all humans have and results in disaster. Human and natural laws apply to everyone.

4. Sisera was an isolated military commander seeking shelter. He went to a woman's tent (Yael) who said, "Come my lord, come right in. Don't be afraid" (Judges 4:18). While he slept, Yael killed him. A leader who trusts the wrong person with his life may be destroyed reputationally if not physically. Isolated leaders are especially susceptible to flattery and temptation.

5. Esau as the older brother was entitled to leadership and a birthright. He sold it for "some bread and some lentil stew" (Genesis 25) because he was hungry. A leader who only considers short-term needs rather than long-term strategies will make disastrous mistakes.

6. Joshua made a peace treaty with Gibeonites who pretended to be from a distant country (Joshua 9). He failed to conduct a sufficient investigation, "did not inquire of the Lord," and this created future problems (II Samuel 21). A leader who acts without knowing all the facts and who engages in hasty decision making courts disaster.

Flawed leaders are easily observed. These examples demonstrate that emotional factors (greed, pride and misplaced trust), as well as having the wrong advisers, incomplete facts and short-term thinking, will result in disaster. These mistakes have been repeated throughout recorded history and likely will continue into the future.