Abraham: Building Foundations of Leadership

Author’s Note: I wrote this paper as a part of my Spirit Empowerment Ministry class at Oral Roberts University. We all picked a leader of the Bible and used Dr. Robert Clinton’s six phases of developing a timeline in leadership emergence. All Scripture quotations and paraphrases are taken from the New American Standard Version (NASB) unless otherwise stated.


Leaders have presented themselves throughout time and recorded history. The Bible mentions several leaders including Samuel, David, Paul, and the greatest leader, Jesus Christ. How was Jesus Christ, a great leader?  Simple, He started Christianity, taught twelve men to be leaders, and for over 2000 years, it is still around and active.

In recorded history, there have been great leaders from Alexander the Great to George Washington. They conquered opposition with obstacles, placed in their way, that just made them stronger and developed smarter leaders. What made them a great leader? Leadership does not come naturally to a person. It is taught and then goes to lead others to success.

In Making of a Leader (Clinton, 2012), he discusses a theory called “Leadership Emergence” (26). This theory, as Clinton describes, “forces you to look at a lifetime with long-range perspectives” (26). It looks at a person’s leadership to give a broader view of qualities to show things that others will overlook.

To start this evaluation, Clinton uses six phases to develop a timeline of a leader by, displaying personal character, training, making ministry a primary focus, using gifts that make them fruitful, and using their experiences in a specific role (26-28). Within the timeline, there are process items to test the leader’s character in a broader sense (28). God is looking for a well-rounded leader that will not waver in any direction but standing boldly with good morals.

Abraham was the model of faith and obedience. His real name, Abram, meant exalted father. God changed his name to be the father of a vast number. God had plans for him as an emerging leader in three phases of foundations of obedience, growth in handling conflicts, and maturing into the leader by faith.

Abraham’s Foundation of Obedience

Abraham’s calling was to start the Hebrew nation. He was born in Ur of the Chaldeans (Gen. 11:28), which is now modern-day Iraq. “Abraham was called from Sumerian paganism to faith in the living God” (Dockery 1992, 128).  For the first seventy-five years of his life, he did not know the one and only true living God.

God called Abraham to leave Ur, to show the land that I want you to settle in, and I will make you a great nation, bless you, and you shall be a blessing (Gen. 12:13, NASB). What did Abraham do at this point? Showed obedience to the living God, packed up his wife, servants, their possessions, and off they went eventually to the land of Canaan. An unknown destination to everyone with one question surrounding their thoughts, would they be accepted upon arrival? When they finally arrived in Canaan, God showed him the land for his descendants (Gen. 12:7). He divided the property with his nephew Lot, and both went their separate ways (Merrill 1998, 13).

Abraham was obedient to the brink of Isaac’s death. God put Abraham to the test of his obedience, directed him to take Isaac to Moriah, and offered him as a burnt offering (Gen 22:1-2). What was going through Abraham’s mind when God told him to sacrifice his promised son? “It is one thing to claim to trust God’s word when waiting for something; it is quite another thing to trust and obey His word after it is received” (Ross 1985, 64). Abraham obeyed God, took Isaac, and tied him up. As he was ready to sacrifice him, an angel came down and stopped him (Gen. 22:10-12). God rewarded Abraham’s obedience with a ram for the burnt offering (Gen. 22:13).

Obedience is a foundational character of leadership emergence. “An obedience check is a process item through which is a leader learns to recognize, understand, and obey God’s voice” (Clinton 2012, 54). God demands that obedience is without conditions or hesitation. When He tells us to go, we should obey and trust His voice.

Abraham’s Growth in Handling Conflicts

Facing and resolving conflicts is an essential trait for all leaders. They have a meaningful impact on the success or failure of a leader and can be started or decided by a word. Clinton claims that a word check, which is a part of his process items, will test their ability to comprehend or obtain and word from God and then allow it to work in their lives (67).

A conflict using a word was Abraham attempting to find a bride for his son Isaac in his homeland of Ur (Gen. 24:3-6). The servant that assisted Abraham used the word “drink” would be the bride for Isaac (Gen.24:14). With many women around the spring, only Rebekah (Gen.24:18) would say the word “drink.” Eventually, she became Isaac’s bride (Gen. 24:67).

Another conflict arose when four kings from the valley of Siddim defeated five kings. Among their spoils was Abraham’s nephew Lot (Gen. 24:10-12). All Abraham needed to hear was the words capture and relative. He sprung into action, took many trained men, and went after the four kings, to get back Lot, the items that they stole, anyone will not contest his land that God promised. “The invasion and subjugation of the cities of the plain by the kings of the east represented resistance to Abraham’s claim to the land. Abraham, acting on behalf of El Elyon, the Almighty God, overcame this threat. In rescuing Lot’s people, Abraham was fulfilling his God-given charge to be a blessing to other nations” (Dockery 1993, 128).

Conflicts using words can decide success or failure for a leader. “God uses His Word in a variety of ways: to give inner conviction, to assign ministry, to solve problems, to motivate toward the vision, to encourage faith, to give divine assurance, and to clarify guidance, to name a few” (Clinton, 2012, 81). In the case of Abraham, he was successful in that he found Isaac a bride to continue what God called him to do and became a great leader in defeating the four kings.

Abraham’s Maturing by Faith into a Leader

Faith will mature a person into a successful leader. “Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen” (Heb. 11:1). Some versions replace assurance with substance and conviction with evidence. Leaders can use faith to see what can materialize and things that can happen in the future.

Abraham undoubtedly questioned his faith as to why God would promise descendants when Sarah was barren. God never goes back on his promises as he told Abraham, “Your reward shall be great” (Gen.15:1). Abraham thought another would be the heir, but God assured him an heir, and it will come from him (Gen. 15:4). God never breaks a promise and a covenant that He makes with others.

“Though he had inherited the land by promise, Abraham did not yet have the promised offspring, even after ten years in the land. The Lord reaffirmed His promise, enlarging it to include innumerable offspring. That host of descendants, Yahweh promised, would go to a land of sojourn, just as Abraham had done. They eventually would return with the riches to fill the land of promise” (Merrill 1998, 13). His faith never weakened even with the obstacles placed in front of him, but he never wavered from what God has promised.

The apostle Paul wrote extensively on Abraham’s faith in his letter to the Roman church. Paul repeats Genesis 15:6 as he believed in God, it was credited to him as righteousness. When Abraham had many questions about being the father of a nation, the land that promised, having a child at his old age with a barren wife, his faith did not waver. “He repeated the authoritative scriptural declaration that Abraham was declared righteous on the basis of his faith” (Witmer 1985, 453). Paul wrote that Abraham’s faith was apart from circumcision and the law, but it was always in God (Gen. 4:9-25).


In conclusion, Abraham is the model of what the foundation of obedience is. Growing up in a pagan culture, God calls him to leave home, go to an unknown land, and I will make you a great nation with plenty of descendants.

He was obedient as God directed him to take his promised son Isaac and sacrifice him. Abraham obeyed God as he took his son to Moriah. As a leader, Abraham showed growth in handling conflicts no matter the outcome. He directed a servant to go and find a bride for Isaac in his homeland of Ur to provide offspring and proved to be a gallant leader in conquering four kings, defending the land that God promised, and was a blessing to other nations.

Lastly, Abraham’s faith matured as he grew as a leader. God promised that the heir of the land and the unconditional covenant would come from him and Sarah and his offspring will be numerous as the stars in the heavens. His faith and leadership never waned as he kept believing in the promises of God.


Clinton, J. Robert, 2012, A Making of a Leader, Second Edition, Recognizing the Lessons and Stages of Leadership Development, Colorado Springs, CO: NavPress.

Dockery, David S., 1992, Holman Bible Handbook. Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers.

Merrill, Eugene H., 1998, “The Pentateuch.” In Holman Concise Bible Commentary, Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers.

Ross, Allen P., 1985, “Genesis.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Vol 1. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.

Sattgast Charles, 2015, “Negotiating the Doing to Being Boundary in J. Robert Clinton’s Leadership Emergency Theory,” D.Min. diss., Bethel University.

Witmer, John A., 1985, “Romans.” In The Bible Knowledge Commentary: An Exposition of the Scriptures, Vol 2. Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.