Reflection for Today ▶️ ⏹️

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He removed the high places, and brake the images, and cut down the groves, and brake in pieces the brasen serpent that Moses had made: for unto those days the children of Israel did burn incense to it: and he called it Nehushtan. He trusted in the Lord God of Israel; so that after him was none like him among all the kings of Judah, nor any that were before him.
2 Kings 18:4-5

These words describe the beginning of the reign of Hezekiah of Judah, one of the few kings mentioned later in the genealogy of Jesus. Every once in a while a good leader comes along to remind us of what is important, and inspire us to live better lives, treat one another more kindly, and stay focused on the big picture. Hezekiah was such a leader. He cleaned up his kingdom and restored a sense of order and purpose. We get the occasional leader like that in the business world too—but it really is occasional, quite outside the norm.

In the business context the leader removes the wasteful bureaucratic procedures that have petrified an organisation, cuts down silos, breaks up fiefdoms and echo chambers, instills a sense of value and purpose, offers workers more autonomy, creates focus, and lifts engagement to higher levels. Such change rarely lasts though. Our modern equivalent of the Assyrian army is the army of shareholders, demanding quick profits and pushing back on sustainable change while it conflicts with this more immediate goal. Good leaders almost never last. The effort and time required to make long-term changes that will ultimately treat people with more humanity, increase engagement and productivity and ultimately reap great financial rewards is too long for the quarterly review process, where gains must be shown each quarter or we are considered to be failing. Shareholders are a merciless army, as unforgiving as any from 700 BC. A good leader can only resist for so long, and when they leave, things quickly revert back to the status quo.

Hezekiah was succeeded by his son Manasseh, as evil as his father was good. For he built up again the high places which Hezekiah his father had destroyed; and he reared up altars for Baal, and made a grove, as did Ahab king of Israel; and worshipped all the host of heaven, and served them.1 Hezekiah was a brief reprieve in the fall of Judah, but in the end the forces of greed, pride, ego and power won out and Judah went the same way as its sister nation, Israel.

If you find yourself, in your working life, under the wing of a good leader, savour it. Enjoy the reprieve while you can as it's unlikely to last. As long as there is capitalism there will be idol worship. We, God's people, have spent a collective lifetime building a walled world which excludes God. Men like Hezekiah may make a window for us in the wall, but it's rarely big enough to climb out, and when noticed is quickly boarded up.

1 2 Kings 21:3