King David: 3 Tips for Leadership

King David captures the hearts of those who read about his life. His story is full of adventure, tragedy, and redemption. Every Christian should get to know King David through Scripture because he reveals the heart of a true leader. Most people can relate to David, maybe because he was the unlikely king. He didn’t look like a king yet God still chose David to lead the new nation that he was establishing. The story of David is one of the oldest underdog stories. He is the shepherd boy who stands up to Goliath and eventually becomes king. There is much to learn from David for those of us who are leaders today.

“The same LORD
who delivered me from the claws of the lion and the bear will deliver me from the hand of this Philistine.”

1 Samuel 17:37

Here are three powerful lessons that King David can teach us.

1) King David is dedicated to his daily duties, even when they aren’t flashy.

I hear much talk about people living out their passions and taking their dream jobs. It is an excellent idea to discern your gifts and pursue your desired career, but I often see people neglecting their daily duties as a consequence. David, the shepherd boy, was dedicated to his flock. He was faithful to his sheep and made sure he didn’t lose one of them. This dedication is why God chooses him to be the King of Israel.

When Samuel is sent to Jesse to anoint one of his sons as king, he starts by looking at David’s oldest brother, Eliab. Upon seeing him, he thinks this is what a king looks like. But then God speaks to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam 16:7). God was looking for a heart dedicated to Him. He was not looking for someone who looked the part. Eventually, David is called and anointed king.

painting in peru

2) King David’s daily duties prepared him the epic of greatness.

Instead of a glorious kingly procession, David returns to tending his sheep, but these daily duties prepare him for an even more significant moment. David would soon volunteer to face Goliath and kill the giant in the name of the God of Israel. It was his trust in his dedication to his daily duties as a shepherd more than the armor that Saul offered him in order to equip him slay the enemy. David explained to Saul, “Your servant used to keep sheep for his father. And when there came a lion, or a bear, and took a lamb from the flock, I went after him and struck him and delivered it out of his mouth. And if he arose against me, I caught him by his beard and struck him and killed him” (1 Sam 17: 35-36).

David grew in virtue and grace during his days as a shepherd boy. These experiences formed his heart to be free. When God finally called him, he was ready and freely gave of himself.

David and Goliath

3) King David patiently pursued his calling.

People wrote songs about David and started rallying around his name. Many began to believe that he was the true king. However, David did not rush to take the crown but waited patiently on the Lord and his timing. David eventually wrote Psalm 27, a psalm every leader should consider praying often. He starts the psalm by exclaiming, “The Lord is my light and my salvation, whom should I fear.” Then, he sings that if armies and enemies surround him, he should not fear and would be confident in the Lord. David ends the psalm with these powerful lines, “Wait for the Lord; be strong, and let your heart take courage; yea, wait for the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14).

We live in an age with instant access to many privileges and gratifications. If we want to learn the origin of something, we look it up on Google or ask ChatGPT. If we have to wait for our food at a restaurant, we grow frustrated and maybe even lose our temper with the restaurant manager. We have forgotten how to fight battles as the Lord intends. David had many years of unjust treatment before finally reigning publically as king. His advice to us is to “Wait on the Lord!” This waiting does not mean that we do not act. But our action is an act of trust, flowing from a free heart.

A Young Priest in Adoration

Many of us have to fight our own battles each day. Maybe it is working through difficult relationships, or maybe our studies or careers aren’t where we desire them to be. Perhaps we don’t feel appreciated by others, or the world is against us. No matter where we find ourselves, we can turn to King David and pray with him, “Wait on the Lord, be strong, and let your heart take courage.” This cry is the prayer of a true leader.

My next post will continue the story of King David, who leads with great passion but is imperfect like you and me. There, we will explore the power of being a flawed leader who needs our Lord.

Nathan Stanley
Nathan Stanley
Nathan Stanley is a writer, speaker and full-time staff member with FOCUS where he currently serves as the Sr. Director of Talent & Leadership Development. Nathan has provided training and catechesis on evangelization, discipleship, leadership, organizational culture and strategy to young people, parish staff, and clergy throughout the country. Nathan encountered Jesus Christ as a student at Benedictine College and became a FOCUS missionary upon his graduation in 2004. Nathan's passion for Christ and His Church is the foundation of his leadership. Nathan is dedicated to raising up the next generation of Catholic leaders for the Church and society. Nathan graduated magnum cum laude with a M.A. in Theology from the Augustine Institute. He married, Lauren, in 2010 and they live outside of Denver Colorado with their three children.

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