Five Smooth Stones for Leadership

In in many organizations life is like mountains of challenges, faced by opposing mountains of strategists, championing different ideas and philosophies.

North American December 17, 2020

“And he took his staff in his hand, and chose him five smooth stones out of the brook, and put them in a shepherd’s bag which he had…and his sling was in his hand: and he drew near to the Philistine.” (1 Samuel 17:40).

Picture the scene in your mind’s eye—two opposing armies atop two mountains with a wide valley between. One champion, parading in cursing tones, and a whimpering king on the other end, scared to death for his life. Sometimes, that’s what life is like in many organizations—mountains of challenges, faced by opposing mountains of strategists, championing different ideas and philosophies.

Too often, we are faced with the giant of a problem, parading and driving us into fear and uncertainty, until another voice emerges. espousing different perspectives, methods, motives, convictions, vision and attitudes. Then it’s time to wed the concepts of strategy development and design thinking, enabling us to cast a vision for the organization, that maintains the common purpose but builds future scenarios.

Strategy enables us to find the best differentiated fit in the light of the most optimum opportunity. Design thinking helps us to conceptualize a future working with the needs of the organization and postulating those needs into the future than working back from that future.

I’d like to think that the story of David and Goliath portrays a link with strategy and design thinking. Goliath strides out, nine feet and nine inches, clad in bronze, shaking his mailed fists at the cowering Israelites. David then marches out, challenges the giant and promises to vanquish him—a word battle ensues.

David runs toward the ambling giant and on his way in, with staff and sling in left hand, bends effortlessly over, agile as ever, with the other hand and scoops up five smooth stones and slips them into the pouch on his waist.

The first stone was Communication. David had been in daily communion with God while minding sheep. This communication gave him the type of Confidence and faith which bequeathed Courage, permitting him to carefully study the Context and to deliver the stroke of Conquest.

Whereas Saul planned from present sight and thinking, David used the five smooth stones as a basis to design think of a post-Goliath era. He practiced the stages of design thinking. He empathized with his brothers and soldiers, defined the situation, created an idea for success, established a prototype of Yahweh’s grace (by shedding Saul’s armor), and put the challenge of evil to the test.

He started with the end in mind, the death of the giant, and turned seeming defeat into victory. That which was desirable, had become feasible and viable, as the Israelites chased the Philistines.

Is it not possible that we can select five smooth stones as our own base for design thinking enabling us to start with the end in mind of a desired vision where our basic philosophy does not change, but where we may portray a number of future scenarios? David’s attitude determined his final altitude.

Leadership lessons abound for us—choose your five stones and design-think a future as the basis for present action, and God will reward you faithfully. No more whimpering, no more doubting—let us seize opportunity by the forelocks with God’s blessing.


E.D., J.D., Associate Pastor, South Atlantic Conference, USA. Served in pastoral districts, high school principalship & superintedent and four college presidents in three countries.

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