Until the United States joined the First World War it was far from clear which side would be victorious. The Allies knew they needed American help but getting them to join the war was far from easy. Finally in 1917 British intelligence intercepted a telegram from Arthur Zimmermann, the German Foreign Minister, encouraging the Mexicans to recapture the US states of Texas, Arizona and New Mexico. This resulted in the Americans deciding it was time to put an end to German aggression and interference and they joined the war. The Allies were overjoyed. The Germans were deeply concerned, so much so that they launched the Ludendorff Offensive in early 1918, hoping to break through the Western Front before substantial American troops arrived. The Germans found some success in their operations but not enough to overtake the Allies. By May over a million Americans had arrived in Europe, changing the dynamics so much that once Turkey and Austria had collapsed in October, and with German workers and troops deciding they’d had enough, surrender finally came surprisingly quickly on that famous day of 11th November 1918.
The First World War had been a long, terrible, drawn-out war for Britain. A war that had cost us so much and that for three years at least, we weren’t sure that we were going to win. In the end, we needed the Americans. We needed help.
The same was true in the Second World War. We needed help. And of course this is true in many wars – victory is usually only achieved with the help of others.
There’s a simple but important leadership lesson here for us all. We need help. And we mustn’t be be afraid to ask for it. Whatever we’re leading – be it a church, a business, a community, a city or a nation – we’re not called to be lone rangers. We need others. We need their advice, their expertise, their finance, their wisdom, their prayers and much more. Rarely is victory achieved on your own.
Many leaders realise too that they don’t just need the help of other people. They need the help of God. King David knew this. During his life he turned to many for help, but most of all he turned to the Lord God and developed a close personal relationship with him. He didn’t just pray in the tough times but in the good times too. Although David was the supreme leader of his people – their ‘shepherd’ (which was a helpful agricultural metaphor of his day) he was clear that he both needed and had his own shepherd. That’s why he said: ‘The Lord is my shepherd’ (Psalm 23:1).
This need for help from others, and from God, is seen time and again in the Bible, from Moses (in Exodus 17:12) needing the help of his colleagues to hold up his hands as the Israelites fought the Amalekites, to the wise advice of Proverbs 27:17, telling us that ‘as iron sharpens iron so one person sharpens another’, reminding us that we’re not made to live in isolation but in community. Some leaders find this hard, preferring to go it alone. But that’s not normally the way to success. Success usually comes to the humble – to those who recognise they need the help of God and the help of others.
So, are there things you’re seeking to do on your own, that you need help with? How are you modelling co-operation and help to those around you? And in what areas are you seeking the help of God today?