He leaned over the stream, taking his time to search for just the right stones. Eventually, he chose five round smooth stones and placed them in the pouch of his shepherd’s bag.

He knew that his brothers and the king’s men were angry with him, and thought he was crazy. They assumed he was too young and too small for the battle ahead. Arrogant for sticking his nose in where he was not wanted or needed.

His king had offered him the use of his armour and sword. While he had tried on the armour and strapped on the sword, he had quickly taken it off. They felt awkward and unfamiliar to him. Because he was not used to them, he declined the king’s offer.

To his way of thinking, the simple sling was his best weapon. He was familiar with it. He trusted it. His confidence stemmed from the fact he used it daily to protect his flock of sheep from predators. 

Scripture reveals that David courageously stepped up to face the giant, Goliath, with only his sling and the stones, and was able to defeat their enemy with a single stone. (1 Samuel 17:1-51)

Lately, I have been thinking about this narrative. Specifically the part that revolves around the choices David made as he volunteered to battle Goliath.

David’s wise decisions highlight his remarkable leadership. His choices reveal a robust awareness of self,  in that he knew and accepted his unique strengths and experiences and how they could contribute to a successful outcome and victory.

David did not try to be something he wasn’t. He did not try to use someone else’s strategies or weapons. He chose to stick with what he knew and to rely on his own personal strengths.

He was fully aware that he was not a trained warrior, and as a shepherd did not have enough experience with a sword to have any sure chance of success. In fact, their unfamiliarity would be a detriment to him.

Instead he chose to enter the confrontation in a way that worked for him. With a simple sling. And a profound trust in God.

This Scripture passage prompted me to think about how often we as leaders try to replicate what has worked for others in terms of leadership style and approach to dealing with conflict. Where we are tempted to try the five easy steps to effective leadership or follow a strategy for conflict resolution recommended because it worked for others.

On the other hand, there are other times where we are more like David. These are the times where we lead and resolve challenges within our families, workplaces and communities by making decisions through the lens of our personal gifts, character, and experience.

Some leaders radiate a similar calm and assurance to David’s, that likewise flows out of their deep sense of faith and trust in God’s provision and protection.

I am not suggesting that we cannot learn from others, because I fundamentally believe that powerful learning can be drawn from exemplary leaders’ teaching and role modelling.

But what I am suggesting – is that in the end this learning needs to be tempered by blending it with a leader’s unique strengths.

A leader’s credibility and appeal primarily stems from her or him being genuine and authentic, faithful to how God has created them. The probability of their success rises as they learn to maximize the use of their gifts.

So be encouraged to use your unique capabilities. It will be through integrating these with valued and proven leadership principles and strategies that you will be most able to lead with authenticity, conviction, and efficacy. The optimum way for us to approach leadership and to influence positive change is when we are being true to our authentic self, just as David was.