I am Not Attila the Hun

So the Lord said to Moses, “Take Joshua son of Nun, a man in whom is the spirit of leadership, and lay your hand on him.  Have him stand before Eleazar the priest and the entire assembly and commission him in their presence.  Give him some of your authority so the whole Israelite community will obey him.  He is to stand before Eleazar the priest, who will obtain decisions for him by inquiring of the Urim before the Lord. At his command he and the entire community of the Israelites will go out, and at his command they will come in.”

  • Numbers 27:18-21

“Attila became an outspoken critic of King Rugila [his uncle] and his policies, for Rugila’s motives and decisions were perceived by the young prince as being contrary to the strengths, purposes, and good of the Hunnish people…
“While a hostage [during military training by the Romans and ‘brainwashing’], Attila tried to unite other ‘barbarians’ in rejecting the intrigues of the empire…
“Attila turned his anger, distaste, and contempt for the empire into an energetic study to learn the ways of leadership and diplomacy…
“Instead of immediately attempting to gain control on his return to his homeland, Attila was patient, his every step planned…
“When the moment came, Attila was ready!”

  • Wess Roberts, PhD, Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun

I know that the post title may harken people’s thoughts to Dave Peever’s “I Am” series where he describes the attributes of a Bible character and then shows how he, and in extension, all of us are like that.  This may have some qualities of that sort, but Attila the Hun is not a Bible character.

As for the book, you could buy just about any book on leadership.  They package the information a little differently.  They use different terms.  Then they publish the same junk that the last guy published as if it were a new revelation.  They all have the elements of the drive and desire to be a leader in the first place, focus on the morale of the people under you, receiving and giving tribute, honor, etc. to others, picking your enemies (and friends) wisely, and on and on. 

According to the author, one of Attila’s rules was to never give a gift, bonus, or prize to anyone unless it was sacrificial.  It had to hurt you or it would not be worth anything to the recipient.  I had to laugh.  Most of my bosses gave grief and when it came to bonuses, forget it, because they wanted management to know that they could keep costs down, and when it came to profit, why share it with the one who earned the company that profit?  Then the company wouldn’t have as much.  Our lack of reward for an excellent job was more work for us and a promotion and bonus for the boss that he shared with no one.  Yet, I had one boss while working on the NASA project who declined getting a raise so that his guys to get another percent in their raise each year.  He did not need the money.  He was living in a low-cost Florida while getting paid as if in a high-cost California.  Sadly, he passed away about six months after the project folded and we were all laid off.

I took a trip down memory lane thinking if I ever worked for an Attila.  Since the leadership qualities in the book are universal, the answer is yes, all of them.  But most only exhibited the hellish Hunnish qualities of ruthlessness, where a few, very few, exhibited few of the ruthless characteristics and all the characteristics that show compassion toward others and the need to maintain good morale.

But when I read the chapter that said that a leader had to have this burning desire to lead, I thought that I failed at being an Attila myself.  But, in thinking of being a good Christian leader, one who serves rather than orders others around, I did have the fire in my heart to do that and not sit on the sidelines.  That was what was wrong with the organizations that I worked for over the years.  They rewarded and admired the bullies that exhibited the ruthless aspects of Attila and they trampled the leaders that exhibited Christian kindness or even the wise sense of the need for good morale as Attila was known for.  Results were all that mattered.  They only said that their people were their most important resource to make customers feel good.  Behind closed doors, we were told to shut up.  We were all replaceable.

I did have a military experience with a real Attila.  Okay, his nickname was Attila because his last name rhymed with Attila, and he was the most ruthless entity that I ever knew.  I said entity in that he might not have been human.  He was a stickler for military discipline.  I was about the least “military” of any lieutenant in the Army.  When I had to visit the staff offices, I avoided his end of the staff offices whenever possible, but my old platoon sergeant became this Major Attila’s field representative and inspector.  He loved it.  He would show up on a construction site for an inspection and the sergeant in charge would be shaking in his boots and the officer in charge would be crying.  Yes, with visible tears.  My old sergeant would be kind, letting them know what would not pass the Major’s inspection, and then he’d be off to see if the leaders at the next construction site could maintain control of their bladders when he showed up.  Some were incapable.  The fear of the ruthless maniacal Attila had one positive response.  They listened to my old sergeant, and they followed his advice.  It was do that or not survive.

Yet, I am not an Attila.  I wanted the other leaders to want to follow, not be afraid of not following.  And I fueled my leadership with love for those people ‘under’ me, not with anger, as did Attila.

Joshua was a good leader because he exhibited the Spirit of God.  Jesus was a good leader, because He exhibited the characteristics of a loving God, in whom He was and is.  People wanted to follow Jesus, even daring to defy the religious leaders in doing so.

In growing to be more like Jesus, we should trash the latest leadership guidelines and look to the Gospels.  How would Jesus handle the situation?

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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