The Obedient Leader

By Mark D. Roberts

September 23, 2015

So Abram went, as the LORD had told him; and Lot went with him. Abram was seventy-five years old when he departed from Haran.”

Genesis 12:4

Packing up and moving on

When we think of leadership, we picture someone who is in charge, someone with authority, someone who influences others and perhaps even tells them what to do. Indeed, leaders are often (though not always) given authority over others. A general in the army, for example, exercises leadership partly through giving orders, orders that are to be followed exactly as given.

Yet, leaders also know when to obey. I know that in contemporary culture we can get a little squeamish about the word “obey.” But there are times when we all must obey, at least we should if we’re wise. For example, when the TSA officer at the airport says “I need to check your briefcase,” it’s generally a good idea to say “Okay. Fine.” “Thank you” doesn’t hurt either.

In Genesis 12, Abram is clearly identified as a leader. He is the leader of his family and the entourage who accompanies them. He will lead these folk away from the security of life in Haran to the insecurity and uncertainty of life in Canaan, and they will follow him. So, there’s no doubt about Abram’s status as a leader.

Yet he also knows how and when to obey. In Genesis 12:1, God instructed Abram to leave his country and his people and go “to the land that I will show you.” In verse 4 we see Abram’s response: “So Abram went, as the LORD had told him.” Don’t you love the simplicity of this verse? Abram went. Abram obeyed. Though he exercised considerable leadership in his life, he knew when it was time to follow orders.

God has given us the privilege and power of leadership so that we might contribute to his work in the world. This is true whether we are mayors, police officers, CEOs, or mothers. Like Abram, we will exercise our leadership by influencing and guiding others. And, like Abram, our leadership will be best if it is grounded not in our own autonomy but rather in our submission to God and in our readiness to obey God in all we do.


What connections do you see between leadership and obedience?

What might make leaders more apt to obey God? What might make leaders more apt to ignore or even to disobey God?

When have you consciously and explicitly obeyed God in your exercise of leadership?


Gracious God, thank you once again for the example of Abram. Thank you for his trust in you and for his obedience. Help me, I pray, to be a leader who knows when to obey. Most of all, may I obey you in all things. Even today, Lord, help me to obey you in my exercise of leadership.

To you be all the glory. Amen.

Photo Credit: “Demenagement quebec1” by I, Claude Boucher. Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Commons.

Mark D. Roberts

Senior Strategist

Dr. Mark D. Roberts is a Senior Strategist for Fuller’s Max De Pree Center for Leadership, where he focuses on the spiritual development and thriving of leaders. He is the principal writer of the daily devotional, Life for Leaders,...

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