G.K. Wallace once wrote an excellent article on leadership based loosely upon Genesis 33:14. This lesson is a presentation of his work with some minor editing on my part.

A good leader will display tender consideration for the old, young, weak, and unfortunate. Jacob knew this when he said to Esau: "I will lead on slowly [or gently]" (Gen. 33:14). Jacob went on to explain the reason why he needed to lead his family and animals at an appropriate pace: "If the men should drive them hard one day, all the flock will die." It was true then and it is still true today: A good leader will not overdrive.

Having said that, let us consider some of the ways in which leaders may overdrive those they lead.

One may overdrive with continual controversy about "words to no profit, to the ruin of the hearers" (II Tim. 2:14). It is so easy to reject the weak if they have not reached the intellectual heights of the strong. Nevertheless, such is not right (Rom. 14:1). It is tempting to disregard the young because of their immaturity and lack of knowledge. A good leader will not require the young and weak to exhibit a degree of strength and other graces which they may possess but only as buds (i.e., in the early stages of development).

One may overdrive by preaching nothing but severe truth, threats, and punishment, and never emphasize the great promises of God. Good leaders exhort as well as rebuke--there must be balance. The great comforting passages of the Bible should not be reserved for funerals only.

One may overdrive by manifesting suspicion and harshness toward those who disagree with him. We must do good unto all men (Gal. 6:10). To return good for evil is indeed a golden rule (Matt. 7:12). Faultfinding has a place, but not to the neglect of worthy praise. "Fathers, do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged" (Col. 3:21). One will discourage even the strong by dwelling upon the woes and trials of Christianity and saying little or nothing about its joys.

Jesus has a special place in His heart for the poor and downtrodden. He was tender and kind to even the most sinful of people. Even to those who would become leaders He said - "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). They were not ready for such at that time, but they would be later. We should not drive as did Jehu (cf. II Kings 9:20), but lead as did Jesus.

When moving a lighted candle, one must do it slowly or it will go out. A weak fire can be put out by a strong wind. A tender plant can be watered too much. In dealing with the weak, we would do well to follow the hospital rule: "Walk softly and speak quietly." We were all little children first and had to learn to walk. Let us always remember that "A servant of the Lord must not quarrel but be gentle to all, able to teach, patient" (II Tim. 2:24). Christians should "put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you so you also must do. But above all these things put on love, which is the bond of perfection" (Col. 3:12-14). These qualities in particular help to make a great leader. These are attributes that will help prevent one from overdriving the flock.