At a time when law and order was not a given, and when each man did as he wished, there rose a woman named Deborah who took the reins of the community in her hands. Biblical scholars "claim that this song, found in chapter 5 of the book of Judges, is one of the oldest existing biblical texts. They often date it to the 11th or even 12th century B.C.E., hundreds of years earlier than the rest of the book of Judges." (Frolov, 2021) She was a judge settling the disputes among the people as we see in Judges 4:4-5:
"Now Deborah, a prophet, of Lappidoth, was leading Israel at that time. She held court under the Palm of Deborah between Ramah and Bethel in the hill country of Ephraim, and the Israelites went up to her to have their disputes decided" (Book of Judges). Not only was she a judge, but she was a mighty warrior and a prophet as we see in Judges 4:6: "She sent for Barak son of Abinoam from Kedesh in Naphtali and said to him, "The LORD, the God of Israel, commands you: 'Go, take with you ten thousand men of Naphtali and Zebulun and lead them up to Mount Tabor. I will lead Sisera, the commander of Jabin's army, with his chariots and his troops to the Kishon River and give him into your hands.' Barak said to her, "If you go with me, I will go; but if you don't go with me, I won't go" (Book of Judges).
Here, we see Deborah speaking as a prophet on behalf of God and going into war at the behest of Barak. It is after their decisive victory that she composes The Song of Deborah. Thus, we see how the character of Deborah is a true leader in many aspects; she is multifaceted and is a mighty warrior, judge, prophetess, and minstrel all in one.
Deborah was not born a leader but became a leader because the role was demanded of her. Underlining her capability to lead at a time when women gained their identity only in their relationship to men as a mother, wife, or daughter. Deborah takes on several roles such as warrior, judge, minstrel, leader, and prophet. She is both a political leader and a spiritual and military leader for the Israelites. This in itself is an amazing phenomenon in a culture and community steeped in patriarchy. Several centuries later in more 'progressive' times, women still find it difficult to surpass the demanding roles of nurturing and caregiving to seek top leadership roles. This is also evident when we consider the responses to the question; do you think the demanding roles of nurturing and care giving continue to keep women away from donning the mantle of leadership roles?
The answer was an overwhelming 'yes'. About 46 percent of the respondents felt that this was true and that it was difficult for women to be leaders if they are involved in domestic care giving.
The same respondents stated that they believed that women would make better leaders if given a chance, as depicted in the graph below. So, do women leaders share a distinctive style of leadership? Given a chance would women leaders be more caring and empathetic? Perhaps women leaders are naturally more inclined to resonant leadership.
Taking A Chance
Deborah took the chance she was given. The Song of Deborah reveals what a successful leader she was. One of the dominant characteristics of Resonant Leadership is the quality of self-awareness and authenticity and these are the foremost principles that Deborah adopts in her leadership style. We see that her self-awareness is derived from her relationship to Yahweh, her God and the God of her people: "The first of all duties is not the bringing of offerings, but the surrender of one's self to the will of God" (Paton, 2013). This Deborah did this very easily as we see in verse 5:2 when she makes an open call to praise God: "Hear this, you kings! Listen, you rulers! I, even I, will sing to[a] the Lord; I will praise the Lord, the God of Israel, in song" (Judges).
Deborah showcases an authentic leadership style; her proclamations are truthful, and she has no hidden agendas. She is aware of gender, social, and cultural biases but does not shy away from them. She does what must be done and says what must be said:
Despite the fact that Deborah is indeed a woman warrior who displays both wisdom and courage (more so than even her general), for a man to be killed by a woman was still considered shameful. During the period of judges, when political organization was loose, leaders emerged from among the people based upon their personal charisma and military prowess. Consequently, exceptional women could and did become judges. However, gender biases still operated in Israelite society and women warriors were rare (Koosed, 2021).
The next characteristic of resonant leadership is empathy:
Goleman classifies this empathy with three components: cognitive empathy--which is simply having an awareness of how people feel, emotional empathy--when we get a sense of feeling what someone is going through and empathic concern'--where we are moved to help others when needed. Being able to emotionally connect with others is powerfully resonant, as doing so lets people know that you understand them and are concerned for their well-being (Clarke, 2015).
Watch this great video on leadership and self-awareness below: