the shape of leadership

Four Keys to Teamwork

A lesson from the leadership of King David

Leaders understand the importance of having great teams. Big dreams are never solo projects, and a good team puts dreams within reach. But for the team to function in a healthy manner, there must also be teamwork.

David set a great example of what teamwork should look like. When the Amalekites raided the Negev and Ziklag, leaving them in utter ruins, David and his men wept until they had no strength left.

Then, David inquired of the Lord, “Shall I pursue this raiding party? Will I overtake them?” The Lord assured David he would have victory. So David and 600 men set out for battle.

But then something interesting happened.

First Samuel 30:9-10 says, “David and the six hundred men with him came to the Besor Valley, where some stayed behind. Two hundred of them were too exhausted to cross the valley, but David and the other four hundred continued the pursuit.”

During their pursuit, an Egyptian led David’s men to the Amalekites. While the Amalekites were celebrating their victory and the plunder they had taken from the land of the Philistines and from Judah (1 Samuel 30:16), David and his men attacked. They fought the Amalekites until evening the next day.

David recovered everything the Amalekites had taken — wives, children, and all the plunder. He brought it back and upon their return, David and his men reunited with the 200 men who were too exhausted to travel any further.

Teams work hard to accomplish extraordinary things, but great leaders help their teams keep success in perspective by giving God the glory.

While David was happy to see the men, others weren’t so gracious.

Verse 22 says, “But all the evil men and troublemakers among David’s followers said, ‘Because they did not go out with us, we will not share with them the plunder we recovered. However, each man may take his wife and children and go.’”

Essentially, the men who fought the battle wanted nothing to do with those who stayed behind.

So, how does David respond? He replied, “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike” (Verse 24).

The way David handled this entire scenario reveals the depth of his attitude toward teamwork. That mindset was marked by four important traits.


The Root of Victory

David’s first response was to say, “No, my brothers, you must not do that with what the LORD has given us. He has protected us and delivered into our hands the raiding party that came against us. Who will listen to what you say?” (1 Samuel 30:23).

Immediately David turned the attention of his men to the source of their victory. He understood that the root cause of their victory over the Amalekites could only be credited to the Lord. God was with them, protected them, and delivered the enemy into their hands.

Teams work hard to accomplish extraordinary things, but great leaders help their teams keep success in perspective by giving God the glory. They center the hearts of their team members by directing the attention to God as the ultimate source.


The Value of Every Role

David didn’t view some of his men with pride and others with disdain. He had a teamwork mindset, and it was expressed when he showed value for each role played by every member.

By acknowledging that some men fought in the battle and others stayed with the supplies, David considered both roles important and essential to the overall victory.

George Barna observed, “No single individual, even when called and gifted by God to serve as a leader, has all of the resources and abilities required to satisfy the leadership needs of a group.”

Great leaders create shared vision and then help their teams see the value of every role, so the vision is fulfilled. If leaders devalue certain roles, they simultaneously downgrade the ones holding those positions.


The Value of Rest

When 200 men were too exhausted to continue, David didn’t guilt, shame, or reject them. He allowed the men to stay behind and rest. David understood the value of resting his team members so they could serve for the long-term.

Leaders today must help their teams build a healthy rhythm between hard work and appropriate rest. Extremes usually aren’t healthy, and great leaders are focused on health. This isn’t easy, and some seasons are naturally busier than others, but leaders must work toward long-term health and sustainability.


The Importance of Rewards

David said, “The share of the man who stayed with the supplies is to be the same as that of him who went down to the battle. All will share alike” (1 Samuel 30:24). He didn’t see the victory as a solo accomplishment but a team win. David helped the men understand that the sweetest victories are shared across the entire team, no matter what role anyone played.

Author Hans Finzel observed, “Great leaders are those who truly feel that the led are just as important as the leader.”

The reward for each team may be different, but leaders must define what it means and looks like. Ultimately, leaders should make decisions with the good of an entire team in mind. 

David elevated four keys to teamwork: the root, roles, rest, and rewards. Each one helps us build healthier, more effective teams, but they require intentionality for a team to benefit.

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