And the officers shall speak further to the people, and say, ‘Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own. ’
This was in a whole section of guidelines for war that Moses was instructing his armies with.
Remember Moses was trained as a general in Egypt, his experience was vast militarily. On top of this he had experience leading great number of people in Egypt and again now with the Israelites.
He built teams, made mistakes, learnt and grew threw out his life. The book of Deuteronomy is in fact a collection of leadership and life lesson sermons given by Moses during his last days on the earth, the last probably being recorded by Joshua.
In this teaching, Moses is going down a list of things that over time he has seen cause distraction in the lives of his warriors when it came time to go to war. This like a new house that has not been moved into; a family that has not been settled; a first harvest that has not yet been brought in; a honeymoon that has not yet been had and a family not yet established. He says this because with compassion he does not what these men preoccupied with thoughts of home and the possibility that they may die and someone reap the benefit of their hard work
At this point the conversation changes focus and he makes one more statement. He moves from the effect of a distractions on the inside of a man to the distractions on the outside of a man:
‘Is there any man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go back to his house, lest he make the heart of his fellows melt like his own. ’
Some people are just not cut out for warfare. Some people just can not take the pressure or the cost of leadership. Some people just dont have the ability to tough out, dig in and make it thorough a season of warfare, a barren season, a dry season. Their inability to cope not only affects them, but affects everyone around them.
Moses asked a couple of things from a person like this.
- They must be aware that it is their issue. The issue isn’t the battle. The issue isn’t the going to war. The issue isn’t the decision of the captains of the army or the soon to be leader Joshua, the issue is theirs…they are afraid.
- The fact that they are afraid this time does not disqualify them from fighting in the future. It doesn’t mean in ventures and adventures going forward that they won’t have a chance to engaged or feel up to the task. But at this point in their life, at this juncture, for whatever reason, they are unfit to be involved in the battle
- No victims allowed. A person’s inability to cope, believe, risk, put all they have on the line for a cause that may cost them personally, affects others around them. They have a moral obligation not to go to war. They may lack the courage to fight, but Moses is insisting that they must have the courage to own their own issues. In a sense he is saying, “Don’t blame me, don’t blame others, don’t blame the universe, don’t blame God…this is your issue.” The flip side of the entitlement generation is that they are also the victim generation. Not only is life owed to them, but it’s everybody else fault they don’t have it.
- Fear is infectious. One man’s fear drags everyone down. You have to let a coward be a coward at home, not in the barracks.
- Leaders have permission to run lean. We don’t need numbers to be successful, we need co-laborers, ones that will carry an equal burden.
- Leaders have permission to not be inclusive. Not everyone is suitable for every project. Not every one cuts it for every team, every time.
- Everyone has a place. It gives us permission to circle back around and give people a different opportunity to play a different role at a different time. The warriors needed support staff. Wars are not only lost on the battle field, but in the supply line. A good administrative team is just as important as a good sales team, as a good boardroom. Moses is saying everyone has a place and a role, you have to find yours.
That’s right, as a leader, you are your best HR department and it all starts with owning your stuff.