King Solomon's Transformational Leadership
The following post is adapted from my personal academic coursework.
Like all the kings in Merida’s Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings, Solomon had plenty of room for improvement. However, he was also a transformational leader, the likes of which the world has rarely seen since. There is a great deal of evidence of Solomon’s transformational leadership in both Scripture and Merida’s work.
Mango characterized transformational leaders as having high moral standards and achieving results which exceed expectations. Solomon possessed both characteristics. One might argue that his moral failures later in life indicate the absence of high moral standards, but Solomon’s own writings contradict this. Merida draws attention to Solomon’s writing “three chapters in Proverbs about staying away from” forbidden women while having “700 wives who were princesses and 300 concubines” and writing that “Anyone trusting in riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like foliage” while personally living for wealth more than righteousness. Solomon did not lack high moral standards; he simply chose not to adhere to them.
In addition to his high moral standards and ability to exceed expected outcomes, Solomon also exhibited each of the four sub-dimensions of transformational leadership. Anderson and Sun state that charisma or idealized influence means behaving “in admirable ways that cause followers to identify with the leader.” People continue to admire Solomon today as “the wisest man ever” and the Lord Jesus even referred to “Solomon in all his glory” in Matthew 6:29 (NKJV). One cannot help but suppose that the great esteem which history has attributed to Solomon must have existed to some degree during his reign.
Solomon also exemplified inspirational motivation, which Anderson and Sun defined as “the ability to articulate an appealing and inspiring vision, challenge followers with high standards, communicate optimism about the future, and provide meaning for the task at hand.” His leadership in the construction of the temple exemplifies this trait. In 1 Kings 5:5, Solomon tells Hiram of his plan to build the temple and Hiram responds in 1 Kings 5:8 by rejoicing greatly and saying, “Blessed be the Lord this day, for He has given David a wise son over this great people!”
Anderson and Sun explained intellectual stimulation as challenging assumptions, taking risks, soliciting ideas, and stimulating and encouraging creativity in one’s followers. Solomon demonstrated his ability to intellectually stimulate through his writings—Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and Song of Songs—and through his wisdom (1 Kings 4:29-31, 34).
Solomon also showed individualized consideration, listening and attending to his subjects’ concerns and needs. There are many examples of this throughout his reign, but perhaps the best known is when he judged the case of two harlots arguing about whose son had been killed (1 Kings 4:16-28). In this matter, instead of dismissing both, Solomon chose to hear their concerns, rightly determine which harlot was the living boy’s mother, and rule in a manner to protect innocent life and preserve a family.
In the early part of his reign, Solomon honored God’s commandments and reflected His character, but turned away from his Creator in his old age. Young Solomon faithfully prayed to God and God answered him (1 Kings 3:6-13, 9:3). God inspired Solomon to write three books of the Holy Bible. Merida noted that Solomon led Israel “to a golden age (peace, prosperity, profitable trade, and a magnificent temple).” However, he transferred his faith from his Creator to his own wisdom and from his Provider to his accumulated wealth and possessions. In doing so, he left his first love and paved the path to his ultimate peril. Solomon’s story is one of both triumph and tragedy, but more importantly one of trust. The disappointing end to such a promising life serves as a reminder to all men that we should heed the wisdom Solomon wrote in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 but ignored in his own life, “Fear God and keep His commandments, for this is man’s all. For God will bring every work into judgment, including every secret thing, whether good or evil.”
Anderson, M.H. and Sun, P.Y.T. (2017). Reviewing leadership styles: Overlaps and the need for a new ‘full‐range’ theory. International Journal of Management Reviews, 19, 76-96. https://doi.org/10.1111/ijmr.12082.
Holy Bible, New King James Version. (2020). Thomas Nelson (Original work published 1982).
Mango, E. (2018). Rethinking leadership theories. Open Journal of Leadership, 7, 57-88. https://doi.org/10.4236/ojl.2018.71005
Merida, T. (2015). Christ-centered exposition commentary: Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Kings. B & H Publishing Group.