I’ve been reading through the Book of Daniel in my morning devotions and have been jotting down some principles on Daniel’s leadership. The Bible says that Daniel had an “excellent” spirit within him. Here are some highlights I’ve been noting of his excellence in leadership:
1. Daniel wasn’t afraid to be different (Daniel 1). He didn’t just conform to the culture he found himself captive in. He was counter-cultural. Without hesitation, he requested that he and his friends be given a different diet than what was on the Babylonian menu. Daniel didn’t eat it just because it was put before him. He dared to be different. Daniel was comfortable in his own skin, and he stood out despite a scrupulous effort to indoctrinate him in the culture and customs of Babylon. Cultural awareness and engagement is important, but conformity erodes a leader’s influence.
2. Daniel knew where to go for answers (Daniel 2:12-18). After the King had a dream that none of the wise men of the kingdom could interpret, a decree was made for all of them to be put to death, including Daniel. But Daniel and his inner circle of trusted companions took the matter to prayer “to seek mercy from the God of heaven concerning this mystery.” God answered them with the necessary wisdom and discernment. Daniel was a man of constant communion with God. Prayer was his lifeline; literally… it saved his life on numerous occasions and positioned him for greater influence as a leader.
3. Daniel celebrated wins and praised God for answers when they came (Daniel 2:19-23). “Then the mystery was revealed to Daniel in a vision of the night. Then Daniel blessed the God of heaven…” He went on to praise God with a declaration of thanksgiving… “To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.” Daniel knew where his wisdom came from and he gave glory and honor where it was due. (James 1:5-8)
4. Daniel had his friends’ back, and therefore could be trusted (Daniel 2:49). After Daniel interpreted the King’s dream, he paid homage to Daniel, offering him high honors and many great gifts. But Daniel didn’t forget his friends Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego. He requested to the king that they be appointed over the affairs of the province of Babylon. Daniel understood that at every level of success in life, someone helped you get there. He didn’t forget his friends; he remembered those who had helped him. He had their backs!
5. Daniel was willing to lose it all rather than compromise (Daniel 3). When the king ordered every subject of the kingdom to bow down and worship an idol erected out of Nebuchadnezzar’s narcissistic arrogance, Daniel and his three friends counted the cost. They believed their God could deliver them from the fiery furnace, but were still willing to lose everything; their status, affluence, positions, power, prestige, and even their lives, before they would compromise by worshiping a false god, or self-serving agenda. Their character meant more to them than all the wealth of the kingdom, and they were willing to lose everything before they compromised their character and the God-centered worship that shaped that character.
6. Daniel wasn’t afraid to have the hard conversation (Daniel 4:22-27). When Nebuchadnezzar had become enveloped in pride and arrogance, Daniel wasn’t intimidated to have the hard conversation about where this conceit was leading the king. He was a straight shooter. He told the king God would drive him into the wilderness to eat grass like a wild beast “until you know that the Most High rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” Daniel didn’t pamper the king with flattery; he spoke boldly about the consequences of pride and self-absorption.
7. Daniel could rightly interpret problems and solve them (Daniel 5:16). Leaders solve problems, cowards place blame. Leaders find solutions, bosses point fingers. Leaders find a way where others make excuses. Leaders seek to understand before being understood. They rightly interpret problems and bring about solutions to fix them. The Bible says that Daniel had a gift for solving problems, not blaming others for them.
8. Daniel didn’t allow political or cultural influences to erode his values (Daniel 6). He was a man of prayer and a man of deep faith. This distinguished him above the other political figures of his time, breeding jealousy amongst his colleagues. They set a trap, by passing legislation that would incriminate Daniel for praying to his God, but he paid no attention to it (Daniel 6:10). He never changed his values. He was a man of prayer and unshakable faith regardless of what laws were put on the books or what was culturally acceptable. As a result, this Daniel was honored. His leadership and influence increased… and the laws were retracted and re-shaped around his values! He didn’t bend.
9. Daniel was a man of integrity; this bred confidence in God (Daniel 6:22). Charles H. Spurgeon once said, “A good character is the best tombstone.” Daniel attributed his great escape from the lion’s den to his blameless character before God. Daniel wasn’t perfect by any means. But he understood the correlation of integrity and the providence of God. Psalm 25:21 “May integrity and uprightness preserve me, for I wait for you.” Because Daniel was a man of integrity, he had great confidence in God’s deliverance. 1 John 3:21 “Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God.” John W. Gardner wrote, “Men of integrity, by their very existence, rekindle the belief that as a people we can live above the level of moral squalor. We need that belief; a cynical community is a corrupt community.”
10. Daniel trusted God (Daniel 6:23). “Then the king was exceedingly glad, and commanded that Daniel be taken up out of the den. So Daniel was taken up out of the den, and no kind of harm was found on him, because he had trusted in his God.” Perhaps there’s no greater description of this excellent leader. Because he trusted God, he was secure in his own identity. Because he trusted God, he knew the source of his wisdom. Because he trusted God, he was a man of great, uncompromising courage. Because he trusted God, he lived with integrity and prayed continually. Because he trusted God, he didn’t fret his opponents. Daniel never cowered… because he trusted God.
Is there something I left out? Feel free to comment.