I’ve been reading through 1 Samuel recently. Many of the stories are quite familiar, including the accounts of Saul being anointed as the king of Israel and ultimately losing the throne. It’s easy to label Saul as a “bad” or “failed” leader and move on to David.

But this time, it seems like God’s Spirit has whispered to me,

“Not so fast. This could be you.”

One seemingly minor incident struck me. In the midst of one of the nation’s frequent battles, Saul is deciding whether to take advantage of his enemy’s confusion and press ahead with the attack. After asking for a priest to inquire of the Lord, Saul decides that he can’t wait for the answer and makes the decision on his own (1 Samuel 14:18-19).

In this brief vignette, Saul is guilty of three common leadership mistakes:

1. Impatience

Like most leaders, Saul is driven to get things done. For him, “waiting” equates to wasted time and missed opportunities. But impatience can be our downfall if it keeps us from listening to God .

2. Control

Closely related to Saul’s impatience is his desire to be in control. He wants to make the decision and dictate the flow of the battle.

When leaders insist on control, they ask God to bless decisions they’ve already made rather than asking God to guide them.

3. Self-reliance

The first two mistakes are compounded by Saul’s belief that victory is within his grasp, with or without God. The best leaders are confident, but not over-confident.

They combine personal humility with confidence in God’s power and provision.
Interestingly, the army of Israel experienced an overwhelming victory that day. But for Saul, it was a classic case of winning the battle yet losing the war. The pattern of impatience, control, and self-reliance would eventually cause God to remove the kingship from him and to give it to a young man who had a “heart after God.”

When you look in the mirror, do you see any of the mistakes that crippled Saul?