Learning from Rehoboam: Leaders Choose to whom they Listen

October 16, 2019

To whom do you listen when you have a tough decision to make? Rehoboam, like all leaders, had a choice to make. And the choice of who the leader listens to can have significant outcomes, as it did for Rehoboam.

We have already seen that Rehoboam learned that failing to listen would cost his leadership. But even leaders who listen well will not be able to make decisions that make everyone happy. So, it’s important for servant leaders to choose to listen to the right people.  Let’s learn from Rehoboam!

 Then King Rehoboam consulted the elders who had served his father Solomon during his lifetime. “How would you advise me to answer these people?” he asked. They replied, “If you will be kind to these people and please them and give them a favorable answer, they will always be your servants.” But Rehoboam rejected the advice the elders gave him and consulted the young men who had grown up with him and were serving him. He asked them, “What is your advice? How should we answer these people who say to me, ‘Lighten the yoke your father put on us’?” (2 Chronicles 10:6-9).

Servant leaders listen to all those they serve.

Rehoboam first consulted the elders and then the young men. He wisely chose to listen to both sides for this decision. Many leaders only listen to the people who already agree with them! Their listening only reinforces what they want to do. This is not listening well! Servant leaders learn to listen to all sides before reaching a conclusion. They welcome those with different viewpoints to the table and listen intently to all those they serve.

Servant leaders listen to those who serve others.

There was certainly a difference in the age of the two groups Rehoboam listened to, but there was something more that separated them. The older men had “served his father Solomon during his lifetime.” Those in the younger group “were serving him” (Rehoboam). This was a difference of perspective.

Because of their previous leadership, the men that had served his father brought a depth of experience and wisdom. They could see a much broader perspective. They were less interested in pleasing Rehoboam and more concerned for the nation. He had not appointed them! Rehoboam wisely turned first to this group. It would have seemed more natural to first hear from those who served him! Servant leaders learn to listen to those who serve others; they have wisdom to share!

Servant leaders listen to those who serve them.

Rehoboam then listened to the group “who had grown up with him and were serving him.”They pointed him in the direction he was already inclined to follow. For all leaders, this is the easiest group to hear—those around us who are eager to serve. They follow us and it is certainly wise to hear their voices and opinions. But servant leaders learn to listen to this group with caution, knowing that what feels good may not always be the wise direction. Servant leaders recognize that listening well to others does not always mean deciding to do what they advise.

Servant leaders listen to the one they serve.

Rehoboam took time and effort to listen to two very important groups of people, but he failed to listen to God! He had three days to listen, but we have no indication that he asked God for wisdom as his father had done. Servant leaders can learn from him that both groups are helpful but not adequate. Listening to God would have perhaps given Rehoboam the perspective he needed to overcome his pride and focus on position.

Servant leaders listen well to others, but also to the one they serve and allow His voice to be the loudest of all!

Until next time, yours on the journey,

Jon Byler

For further reflection and discussion:

  • When I have a significant decision to make, to whom do I listen? Is this person or group the right one? Are there others I should be deliberate about hearing?
  • Who are the people in my circle of influence who would fit in the category of serving others? (Either they were there before I was the leader, or they have served other leaders enough to gain different perspectives.) How could I find ways to listen to them?
  • How do I deliberately include God in my decision-making process? Are there things I can do to allow His voice to be heard more clearly?

In the next issue, we’ll examine what leaders lose when they fail to listen.