Deputy Sheriff Barney Fife of the television hamlet of Mayberry, North Carolina, was running for office in an old episode of “The Andy Griffith Show.” Eager to learn some necessary skills from his trusted superior, Sheriff Andy Taylor, Barney asked Andy how he had acquired his unusually good judgment. “Well, Barn,” Andy said, “I guess you could say good judgment comes from experience.” Barney considered that for a moment. “Then where does experience come from?” he asked. “Experience,” Andy replied, “comes from bad judgment.” Some leadership skills can be learned from experience, but the gift of leadership is given by God.
King Solomon exhibited good judgment in the beginning of his reign, exercising the gifts of wisdom and discernment that were given to him by God. But the leadership principles he spoke of at the end of his life were those shaped from the crucible of experience—experience forged in the fires of bad judgment. He had lived in excess, tried it all, and made more than his share of bad choices.
The best leaders possess both natural gifts and skills honed by experience. How can you spot a leader? When a leader steps out, others follow—consistently and enthusiastically over time. Leadership is assuming responsibility for building relationships with grace.