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Before leaders get to tackle the next big giant, they’ve faced off with plenty of “pre-giants”—and come to the big stage with a few of them already slain.

David and Goliath. It’s one of those stories in the Bible that’s so well known, even Malcom Gladwell is writing leadership books about it.

Gladwell’s take is an interesting one (I know… color me “shocked” at yet more great leadership content from Gladwell). He thinks David wasn’t the underdog who the storytellers love to play up. Quite the opposite, agility and speed are incredibly effective weapons in the hands of any person (or organization).

And I agree. David wasn’t that much of an underdog – but not just because of his flexibility and quickness.

We often forget:

David had already killed a lion.

A lion. Yes. That kind of a lion.

Oh yeah – and don’t forget about the bear.

A bear.

Think about this (rather morbid thought):

If you were given the chance to fight a large man who wanted to kill you (but you could choose any weapon you wanted), OR you could face a hungry lion in the wilderness… which way are you leaning?

We often forget that before the biggest leadership moment of David’s life to that point, he had already been tested. Click To Tweet

Before he was on the biggest leadership stage of his life, he had already auditioned – and proven to be effective. (And by “proven,” I mean that he was still standing with all of his arms and legs attached.)

I’m not trying to take anything away from David’s faith in God. He had that in spades. A quick refresh in 1 Samuel 17 reveals that his faith was the reason he wanted that opportunity in the first place. How dare that giant mock the living God.

But after that, what made David say to himself:

I can take him!

What made David believe that he was up for the task of defeating the man whose name has now become a synonym for giants both literal and metaphorical?

Note that David doesn’t boast to the king about his great faith. Nor his values. Nor his vision. Nor his purpose. Nor his calling. That’s not what he points to. Those aren’t why he thinks he can.

Instead, he talks about what?

That (dead) hungry lion. And that (dead) hungry bear.

He knows he can because he already did.

I think a lot of us want that bigger leadership stage or that higher-level leadership opportunity.

And hear me clearly: I don’t think there’s anything wrong with that, in and of itself. Most leaders want higher levels of leadership.

But leaders who succeed at higher levels are those who successfully attack the leadership problems at their current level. They’ve got their own “lion and bear” stories to tell.

Before leaders get to tackle the next big giant, they’ve faced off with plenty of “pre-giants”—and come to the big stage with a few of them already slain. Click To Tweet

Don’t underestimate the value (and necessity!) of those “pre-giants”—those leadership lions and bears. You might be the only one who knows what it was like to slay them. But knowing that you did… well, that’s fuel for facing your Goliath.

In light of this, here are some questions that we can be asking of ourselves as leaders:

  1. What “pre-giants” am I facing in my current leadership role? What are those “lions and bears”—those big leadership challenges that are looming on the horizon, demanding that I step up and face them?
  2. Currently, how motivated and equipped am I to meet my pre-giants head on?
  3. Do I want my next “Goliath” because I want a bigger stage, or because I can point to a track record of faithfully addressing leadership challenges?
  4. If I were to list the “pre-giants”—those leadership “lions and bears” that I’ve had to face to this point – what would they be? And do they reveal anything about what might be coming next?


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Jesse Tink

Jesse is the Pastor of Campus Development at Prairie Lakes Church, which currently spans across six campuses in northeastern and central Iowa. He’s served in various roles including college, music, production, teaching, and senior leadership. Jesse has led teams in urban, suburban, and rural locations, from campuses of 50 to 1500. Married to Erin, they have their son, Jude, and their daughter, Ellie. He’s outside in the colder months hunting deer and turkey at their family-owned ground, and roots for the Iowa Hawkeyes and New York Yankees.

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