It’s a simple sentence, but amazingly telling. It was the reason David was the greatest king Israel ever knew and that God could entrust such a responsibility into his hands. And, it’s the necessary essential of all great leaders:

David realized that the LORD had established him as king over Israel, and that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel (2 Samuel 5:12 NASB).

The Source

David understood something most of us never grasp: God had exalted him to leadership. It was not man, and it certainly was not his own skill, planning, manipulation, or resources.

Perhaps it was because of his humble beginnings as the youngest son or as a shepherd, forgotten and never considered for any position, much less the one he now occupied. Or maybe it was because of the way it had all occurred—the jealousy of Saul that had driven the loyal David from his side; the relentless hunting of the innocent servant in the wilderness; the supernatural intervention of God to bring about the strange twist of events that now placed this young warrior on the throne.

Regardless of what contributed to his rise, David knew that there was one Hand behind it all. And he was quick to let everyone know. His psalms are a constant indication that David understood, “The earth is the LORD’s and the fullness thereof” (Psalm 24:1). He knew that God puts down one and exalts another.

Good leaders recognize this and gladly, humbly proclaim what God and others have done to contribute to their success. This is not some syrupy, false humility, but springs from a humble heart that genuinely believes. It is not a self-deprecating belief—thinking less of the abilities God has given, or thinking that one is not “fearfully and wonderfully made … my soul knows it very well,” as David says in Psalm 139:14.

The moment we start taking God’s credit and privately or (worse) publicly soaking in the accolades, we lose the pleasure of God and authenticity before men.

The Purpose

Many leaders think the results are all about them and all for them. “I earned this, now I’m going to enjoy the fruits of my labor.” How many corporate scandals are laced with this thinking?

But not David. “David realized … that He had exalted his kingdom for the sake of His people Israel.” David knew there was a goal in God’s mind to bless His people; to keep the promises He had made to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob; and to exalt Himself.

Great leaders know they are servants in a larger plan. They realize they have been lifted up by the power of God and placed where they are by the purposes of God. They do not falsely view their own abilities, but they understand that even those have been given to them by the One who gives every good and perfect gift.

They are constantly checking with God through His Word and His Spirit to make sure they are aligning themselves with God’s purposes. They don’t lead and then say, “God, please bless this great idea I’ve had.” They live like their Master, who proclaimed, “I do nothing of my own initiative. Whatever I see my Father doing, that’s what I do” (John 5:19, paraphrase).

Continually remembering the Source of success and the purpose for ministry keeps a leader in the right posture for continued usefulness. This man will not steal God’s glory or hurt His people. This is a leader who can be trusted.