My new book, The Top 10 Leadership Conversations in the Bible, is based on research that identified 1,090 interactions between a leader and followers. Only one of these conversations is connected to the traditional Christmas story. The leader is Herod, and the followers are Magi from the east, along with leaders from the Jewish religious establishment. The situation is a search for a child king, signified by the star in the east.
It is ironic that a leader known as Herod the Great could be such an embodiment of insecurity in leadership. Matthew described his response to the inquiry from the group of Magi about a king born to the Jews in three words, “he was disturbed.” Herod’s reputation was such that upon hearing how he felt, “all Jerusalem” was disturbed with him (Matthew 2:3).
Everyone has some level of an identity crisis that fuels negative self-talk. John Adams, writing in his journal before the meeting of the First Continental Congress in 1774, said: “I wander alone, and ponder. I muse, I mope, I ruminate. We have not men fit for the times. We are deficient in genius, education, in travel, fortune—in everything I feel unutterable anxiety.”
And who would join him at this meeting? Benjamin Franklin, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson, just to name a few. Not a bad list. Even the greatest leaders, deep down, wrestle with a measure of insecurity.
My first reaction to Herod’s insecurity was to write it off as an expression of his moral bankruptcy. But the more I’ve thought about it the more I believe that while few leaders could identify with what Herod did, we all relate to why he did it. The question isn’t, “Will I feel insecure?” but rather, “How will I deal with insecurity.”