the shape of leadership

Leading in Culturally Divided Times

A 10-week study for leadership teams

Daniel was among the exiles taken from Jerusalem to Babylon during the reign of Nebuchadnezzar. As strangers in a foreign land, Daniel and his friends learned to navigate significant cultural differences without compromising their faith.

Similarly, Christians in America live in culturally divided times. Biblical values and beliefs are increasingly at odds with prevailing cultural views. Nevertheless, like the Early Christians who made their marks as “foreigners and exiles,” we are called to “live such good lives” others will take note and “glorify God” (1 Peter 2:11–12).

The Jewish exiles hoped to return to their homeland quickly, but the prophet Jeremiah announced they would be in Babylon for 70 years (Jeremiah 29:10).

God’s instructions to the Jewish people were clear: Build houses, settle down, and raise families (Jeremiah 29:4–6). Additionally, Jeremiah 29:7 says, “Seek the peace and prosperity of the city to which I have carried you into exile. Pray to the Lord for it, because if it prospers, you too will prosper.”

That’s the approach Daniel took. Rather than retaliating against the Babylonian culture, he faithfully led for more than six decades under four different kings — Nebuchadnezzar, Belshazzar, Darius, and Cyrus. But Daniel did so with an uncommon set of qualities.

In fact, Daniel 6:3 says, “Daniel so distinguished himself among the administrators and the satraps by his exceptional qualities that the king planned to set him over the whole kingdom.”

The traits that made Daniel stand out from the crowd should distinguish Christians as well. This installment of Make It Count (available in English and Spanish) examines 10 leadership traits that will help you lead in culturally divided times. 

Despite living and leading in a pagan culture, Daniel
modeled an
unwavering commitment to God.

1. Commitment. Despite living and leading in a pagan culture, Daniel modeled an unwavering commitment to God.

2. Prayer. Daniel was a person of prayer. Even when the pressure was on to compromise his faith, Daniel still prayed three times daily.

3. Teachability. Daniel was a student of Babylonian culture, spending three years learning the literature and language. That understanding enabled Daniel to lead with a clear understanding of his context.

4. Self-control. Doing what is right and avoiding what is wrong requires self-control. Daniel mastered both aspects of self-control, practicing restraint and proficiency in his life and leadership.

5. Competence. While serving under King Nebuchadnezzar, Daniel became known for his exceptional competence. His abilities came from God, but Daniel was also faithful to develop them.

6. Character. Daniel modeled character, resisting the temptations of convenience, carrots, and corruption under various kings. Daniel’s character helped him remain faithful to God and gave him the moral authority to lead.

7. Humility. Daniel didn’t let his ego dominate his leadership. He led with humility, giving credit to God and showing respect to the kings.

8. Wisdom. Daniel’s wisdom reveals the importance of responding to culture with restraint, grace, clarity, solutions, and a commitment to seek God. His life offers a powerful example for today.

9. Courage. Daniel was courageous, standing up for what he knew was right and speaking truth to power. Courage is a trait that makes the others possible.

10. Consistency. Daniel didn’t just practice these distinguishing qualities occasionally. He consistently modeled them for more than 65 years, which led to increasing influence.

As you read, reflect, and discuss these traits, let them become a roadmap for leading through culturally divided times.


Adapted from the Spring 2024 issue of Influence magazine.

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