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 Home | Business Aspiration | How King Solomon's Wisdom Built A Kingdom

Business Aspiration 

  "Great Leaders Series: How King Solomon's Wisdom Built A Kingdom"

   By Scott Andrews, Founder

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"Notice the lilies of the field, they labor not, neither do they toil and yet Solomon in all of his glory was not arrayed such as these!" -- Jesus of Nazareth (quoted from NAS version Bible)

In the Old Testament of the Bible, King Solomon, son of King David (who wrote most of the Psalms) demonstrates wisdom rarely seen among today's leaders.  Among Solomon's writing credits are most of the Proverbs, Song of Solomon, and perhaps Ecclesiastes. Solomon ruled the kingdom of Israel during the era of approximately 970 – 930 BCE.  He is credited in I Kings 4:30-34 with wisdom greater than Eastern mystics and Egyptian scholars.  He wrote more than 1,000 songs (or poems), most of which are no longer available to us.  Solomon likely wrote Psalm 72 shortly after becoming King.  While the book of Proverbs contrasts wisdom with folly, Solomon reportedly spoke 3,000 proverbs, and various kings all over the earth sought out Solomon for his knowledge.  And Ecclesiastes contains some of the strongest philosophical insights into the human condition contained in the Bible.  Any number of these writings can serve as inspirational texts for anyone aspiring to leadership positions.   

Regardless of one’s beliefs and religious practices, Solomon’s ideas about how to build a kingdom form a relevant metaphor that we can easily apply to society’s secular world. Today, special interest groups, in the name of freedom of speech and plurality of all religions, are intent upon corralling religion into certain religious centers and away from government, business, and society.  However, the path to building a kingdom, according to Solomon, is quite different.  No matter what religion a person may or may not hold sacred, peeking behind the veil of knowledge possessed by Solomon illuminates ways to lead during a time so desperate for true leadership.

With this in mind—and given that our use of the word God refers to the mysterious forces or supreme spiritual being controlling the universe—let’s examine the wisdom in Solomon's approach to building a kingdom: 

I.  Align your self with your God (higher power):  "Now Solomon the son of David established himself securely over his kingdom, and the Lord his God was with him and exalted him greatly"  (2 Chronicles 1:1).  The first key to building a kingdom is to connect to our universal source.  It all begins there.  As seekers, we must not know so much what we seek; instead we must know how to connect.  For once we connect to God, we no longer feel compelled to seek his mystery.  We know the answers to previously unanswered questions and we know the right action to take in given circumstances.  In this knowledge, we gain ultimate fulfillment, and if we aspire to be great leaders, we must first be spiritually fulfilled.  We then will be in position to lead and will be rightly exalted to a position of our own gifts.  We read a few verses later that Solomon offered a thousand burnt offerings before a bronze altar in front of the leaders of thousands and hundreds of people.  This was customary, yet Solomon made grand gestures to God.  It was this night that God appeared to Solomon and said to him, "Ask what I shall give you."  

God offers this question to EACH of us when we learn to glorify him instead of our own egos.  In other words, when we connect with our universal power and trade our ego-based selfishness for a position of integrity and doing right in God's eyes, we then enjoy the opportunity to ask for the means to further our aspirations the most.  If we are to build a “kingdom,” we must have this power.  The saying, “Be careful what you ask for” has important meaning when we consider the faith that we may RECEIVE what we ask for.

Solomon asked for wisdom and knowledge.  In 2 Chronicles (1:10) Solomon asked God, in prayer, "Give me now wisdom and knowledge, that I may go out and come in before this people; for who can rule this great people of Thine?"  What did Solomon ask for?  Glory?  Riches?  Conquests?  Lovers?  Longevity?   Fame?  No.  He asked, humbly, for wisdom and knowledge.  This is what leaders must have in order to best build their kingdom.  

God recognized Solomon's humility:  a weak flower bends in the wind, while the mighty tree falls from the storm.  Our own leaders today would learn from Solomon's request.  Solomon did not approach God from a position of ego; he approached God from a position of humility, honor, and service.  How might we serve the best?  This is the first question a leader must ask.  In return for Solomon's eager desire to please God with his simple request to gain wisdom and knowledge, that he might lead God's people, Solomon receives wisdom and knowledge—as well as riches, wealth, honor, and victory over enemies.  The lesson in this is that God delivers more than we ask for when we approach God from a position of humility, awe, respect, and service.  Yes, it is impossible to evaluate Solomon's approach to building an empire without first recognizing Solomon's relationship to God.

While the current trend is to reject the endorsement of religion in government and business institutions, it is important to recognize that without our intuition (gut feel) few brilliant ideas would rise from our leaders.  And, intuition is a spiritual process as much as intellectual.  I challenge companies to embrace their spirituality, to embrace God – not that a religion needs to be endorsed, but a belief and alignment with spiritual resources as much as physical resources.

II.  Focus on your primary mission.  Solomon next decided to build a temple for the name of the Lord, and a royal palace for himself. This temple construction was a major undertaking. 

Solomon then built a temple for the Lord, and a royal palace for himself.  Again, he kept his focus on how he might please God with his actions.  In our kingdoms of today, do businesses build first for God or try to separate God from work?  In our political structures of today, do governments try to please God or try to separate church from state?  Solomon, in his wisdom, chose to honor God.  Solomon recognized (2 Chronicles 2:6), "who is able to build a house for Him (God), for the heavens and the highest heavens cannot contain him?"

This temple was small but impressive (http://phoenicia.org/temple.html).  For the full account of dimensions and materials Solomon gathered for the temple, see 2 Chronicles 3 and I Kings 6 and 7.  Solomon’s temple, his primary mission, made other buildings look rather pale in comparison, especially considering the walls were lined with gold.

This undertaking was considered quite industrious.  Solomon’s task force required twenty years to complete the mission.

III.  Gather your internal resources and form trade. Solomon’s mission of building a temple was monumental.  Israel did not have enough stone, gold, wood, or workers to begin work.  So Solomon gathered resources, formed trade, and bartered resources he could spare for the resources he needed to complete the mission.  In 2 Chronicles 1:14 – 17, we see how Solomon gathered his resources and amassed an army of chariots and stationed them in cities.  In a leadership context, what resources are available to us?  Solomon amassed his horses and chariots from other countries, such as Egypt and Kue, then sold many to other countries and built his own fleet of chariots by profiting from the trade.  If we build masses of resources, and then consolidate them in hubs (cities), we can increase our influence throughout our kingdom.

In order to build the temple, Solomon needed wood and stone. He approached Huram, King of Tyre, to barter wood and skilled workers for barley, wheat, wine, and oil. He also needed workers, wood, gold, quarrymen, ironworkers, and supervisors. Solomon checked the census and round he had 150,000+ laborers at his disposal. This would be equivalent to employing all of the employees at Goldman Sachs, Cisco, Intel, and Starbucks combined for a period of twenty years.

IV.  Consolidate leadership within your kingdom.  Solomon lived during a period of strife, war, and backstabbing.  Does this sound familiar?  Solomon quickly did away with two of his biggest opponents, who had laid claim to the throne prior to David passing the mantle of leadership to Solomon.  One of Solomon’s moves against an enemy of his father, David, was to give his enemy just enough rope to hang himself.  Solomon told Shimei, an enemy of King David and threat to the throne, to build a house and not to depart from a general territory near Jerusalem for any reason, or he would face certain death.  Shimei agreed to this arrangement.  Three years later, however, Shimei's servants left and went to Gath, and Shimei followed them (thus violating his agreement).  Keeping our agreements is important to building a kingdom, whether in a leadership or subjugated position, and Solomon's rule dictated prompt execution for Shimei.  

This act consolidated Solomon's leadership and gave Solomon absolute authority over his people.  If there are people in your own “kingdom” grasping for your power, you must either make them allies or send them if you are to have absolute authority.  Of course, within a democratic system, it isn't always possible to execute our enemies (nor do we recommend killing insubordinate business staff).  So, the next step—forming alliances—might resolve some of those challenges.

V.  Form strategic alliances.  Solomon made strategic alliances with friendly kings and queens to increase resources, trade routes, and power.  Strategic alliances also increase cooperation and eliminate competition.  Why compete when we can cooperate?  A New York Times article posted at IBI’s website (see IBI Global article by NY Times) cites recent studies on the value of cooperation over competition.  The article indicates a cooperative business model creates higher feelings of happiness and breeds more success, while a competitive model creates fear and limits feelings of happiness.

Companies focusing on competition are, as I put it, living by the sword.  And, it's not a new expression that those who "live by the sword, die by the sword."  Instead of living by the sword, Solomon built alliances.

The first significant alliance Solomon built was a marriage alliance with Pharaoh of Egypt, when he took Pharaoh's daughter and brought her to the city of David.  This act gained resources from Egypt, opened a trade route through Africa, and kept war with Egypt away from the kingdom.  Kingdoms grow more during peace than they do during war.  More about this union can be found at http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/14135b.htm.

The Cedars of Lebanon were well reputed at that time, and Solomon needed them to build his temple and palace.  Solomon understood the power in alliances. Alone, we have limited skills and resources to succeed in our objectives.  However, partnered with others who have skills, resources, and teamwork, we can achieve far more of our goals in much less time.  So Solomon made deals with the Lebanese King Hiram of Tyre, trading oil, wine, barley, and wheat for woodsmen, metal workers, and various craftsmen, along with Lebanese timber (1 Kings 4, 5).

Solomon continued to build and strengthen his kingdom over the next twenty years.  His most notable alliance was with Makeda, Queen of Sheba (who ruled over Ethiopia during a time where Ethiopian power controlled Africa during the era of 970 BCE). 

In Solomon's day, Makeda's importance was trading through the route known as the "Horn" of Africa.  Egyptian hieroglyphic records indicate that the Pharaohs obtained frankincense and myrrh from Ethiopia, and from the Somali coast, as far back as 2700 BCE.  In addition, Ethiopia was a much larger kingdom in the days of Sheba, spanning from the Red Sea to Zimbabwe.

Also, Makeda and Solomon had a sexual union, resulting in a son named Menelek, the founder of Ethiopia's Solomonic dynasty.  Menelek later removed (stole) the Ark of the Covenant to his palace in Axum (today in ruins).  Unlike present leaderships, Solomon and Sheba forming a union was not uncommon:  Solomon had over 300 wives, often representing trade agreements and treaties.

It is critical to have strong, open, powerful trading routes in any kingdom, and Solomon was well aware of the resources surrounding his kingdom.  Opening flow of trade to obtain resources, skills, and information from other kingdoms is critical to leading a successful kingdom. The same applies in business today.  If a company cannot trade, they fail.  This is also true with countries, as demonstrated by the recent fall of the economy in Argentina.  Cuba remains in a state of early 1960's economic staleness as a result of the American embargo against Castro.  I couldn't help but notice the cars and economy in Havana as I watched the movie about the "Buena Vista Social Club" society of Cuban musicians. It is quite odd how Cuban production seems to have stopped in the 1950’s as a result of the trade barriers imposed against Cuba.

Trade among kingdoms is vital to the kingdom's success.  And Sheba's trade route opened all of Africa to Solomon.

Finally, the alliance with Sheba reduced the odds of war with Egypt, as Solomon undoubtedly knew from the alliance several hundred years earlier between King Rameses II of Egypt and Queen Nefertari of Africa, which at that time had ended a 100-year war between Egypt and Nubia.

Sheba was the most well known of the alliances, yet Solomon reportedly formed alliances with the Arabian Kings, and many other neighboring countries, which virtually guaranteed him peace and abundance during his rule.

VI.  Safeguard your valuable assets.  Solomon then completed his building projects and furnished the temple.  Solomon needed a place to put the Ark of the Covenant with God, which was a vessel Israel used in battle representing the power of God with their army, as well as the official vessel containing the tablets representing the covenant between Israel covenant and God, The Ten Commandments.  The lesson there is to keep your most valuable resources safe. 

In today's companies, the data center is often the key to their success.  Modern organizations protect their data through sophisticated “data centers” that feature extensive air conditioning, fire prevention and control, raised floor, and earthquake-proof facilities to protect their valuable computers, storage, and data

Wise companies know how much money is lost from even on hour of downtime.  Solomon was no different.  He protected his most valuable assets.  He also offered a prayer of dedication to God.  I'm not sure too many CEO's of companies dedicate their data center to God.  If the company is on a mission for adding value in the world and providing "highest good" would not such a prayer be in order?  What we have instead are lies, misrepresentation, and CEO's who sell their company at the first sign of trouble.  It is noted in 2 Chronicles, 7:4-22 that Solomon made quite a big deal about the sacrifices to God and God responded in appreciation and also requested Solomon keep statutes and commandments and not set other gods ahead of God.  We often mistake riches, fame, and other things as more important than God, but those things fade away, while God and the gifts from God last forever.  

VII.  Rule wisely.  People came to Solomon with their concerns and he was well reputed for judging fairly with them to administer justice.  In I Kings 3:16-28 is detailed a story of how Solomon ruled a dispute between two women who claimed the same son.  It important to build a kingdom through integrity, ruling in fairness, honesty, and being true to our commitments.  Solomon's reputation preceded him as wise and fair with his constituency. How much do you want to wager that Solomon also succeeded with others simply based upon this reputation, once it was established?

VIII.  Celebrate success.  Solomon held a celebration and dedication in honor of the completion of building the temple. AT the ceremony, Solomon offered peace offerings to the Lord, and among those offerings sacrificed over 22,000 oxen and 120,000 sheep.  It is written in I Kings 9:65 that the feast lasted fourteen days.  It keeps spirits high to celebrate our successes, and this feast was no exception.

IX.  Avoid extravagance.  Many of the dot-com CEOs can now attest to the folly of the lavish parties they threw in honor of their public offerings, which drew them millions in cash but left most worthless on paper after the crash.  Solomon, unfortunately, fell victim to extravagance, and in his latter years needed to cede property to Hiram in order to pay remaining debts.  However, Solomon was no different from many kings of his day, who frequently erected buildings and monuments as symbols of power.  In the United States, are the Statue of Liberty, Empire State Building, or the Sears Tower any different?  In Paris, there is the Eiffel Tower.  In Egypt, the great pyramids, with Pharaoh’s face carved over the eroded lion's head.  This is a risk leaders run:  letting ego get the best of them by spending extravagantly on buildings and other powerful images (advertisements on television, for example).

For further information on the temple, and its cost and beauty, I recommend this link on Solomon (http://www.intournet.co.il/holyland/vol4-1-1.html). Creating something physically great, such as a building, especially a gold-lined building, costs quite a bit of money. And that holds true today as much as in Solomon's day. William Randolph Hearst spent millions building a castle in an era where millions were worth billions in comparison to the dollar's present value. This occurred just this century, so the concept remains true. The cost to rebuild the World Trade Center is estimated in the billions.  

A lesson is to make sure we have the resources to complete our objective, and be as extravagant as the occasion calls for.  High costs mean higher taxes, and taxes result in unhappy constituents. So, it is important to maximize our cash and avoid extravagance or we risk losing property, loyalty, and other good will. I recall a time when I drove onto the campus of Ernest and Julio Gallo, the widely successful winemakers located in Modesto, California. I'll never forget how they had numbered parking lots. Ernest and Julio both parked in 1 and 2, of course. But what was surprising was the cars these men drove. They didn't drive brand new Mercedes or Bentley automobiles. Instead, they drove their twenty year-old Cadillac. I remember the next time I visited, one of the brothers had upgraded his vehicle: to a JEEP. Clearly, these are two men who understood the wisdom of avoiding extravagance.

X.  Keep agreements. This might seem irrelevant, as so many "leaders" today break their agreements almost as soon as they are made. Yet, keeping agreements is the #1 key to building goodwill. How good is your word? The stock market holds companies accountable--for profit?  Well, yes.  But, even profitable companies can have their stock damaged by simply missing their FORECAST of profit.  This is because the CEO forecasts, prior to each earnings release, a report as to how many cents in profit the company expects to make.  If the CEO misses the forecast, just watch that stock get hammered on the street. This is because Wall Street cares as much about the company’s ability to forecast as it does actual performance.  The process is silly and confounding until it happens to your company or a stock in your portfolio.

I recall a letter from my company's CEO, who promised (upon selling the company I worked for at the time to a larger competitor) that he had secured agreements from the new company that no offices would be shut down, no factories closed, no lines of business discontinued, and no employees let go for a period of two years. Two weeks later, I received a call from a different manager telling me that I was the only employee left, from the CEO to me, in my entire organization--the rest either left on their own or had been axed. How eager was I to work for the new organization? I felt betrayed by the new company's senior executives. They BROKE THEIR WORD and now I was supposed to be excited to work for them? Yet, this happens frequently in corporations every year. If there is one key to building a successful kingdom, keeping agreements is probably the second most important next to honoring God through our actions. 

Solomon received gifts in exchange for his wisdom (information). While Solomon kept his agreements (and most specifically, his agreement with God), his wealth became greater than all the kings of the earth. Coincidentally, this is also where Solomon failed.  It is detailed in I Kings, Chapter 11 how King Solomon loved many foreign women.  And, he erected places of worship in honor of these relationships, many of which were false gods and considered detestable idols. As a result of his broken vow (not to put any idol above God), Solomon then dealt with many adversaries in the last days of his rule.

In Ecclesiastes, the “teacher” (Solomon) takes the reader through the search for meaning in life from hedonism, materialism, intellectualism, and ultimately finding a lack of fulfillment from all of these “meaningless” pursuits.  When Solomon looks back upon his personal journey, he acknowledges that his excess consumed him and in the end was "meaningless."  Yet, it is here that he recognizes the vanity of so many of his efforts, and comments: "I know that there is nothing better for them than to rejoice and to do good in one's lifetime; moreover, that every man who eats and drinks sees good in all his labor--it is the gift of God.  I know that everything God does will remain forever; there is nothing to add to it and there is nothing to take from it, for God has so worked that men should fear him."  (Ecclesiastes 3:12-14). Solomon advises that there is a time for everything, yet the true meaning for man is to find value and to rejoice in his work.  This is a basis of philosophical thought behind much of my own writings and Life Purpose work.

Is it not better to live a life on purpose, passionate about our mission, living and loving most in our actions, rather than to live a life of a dead person -- walking the earth serving other people's whims?  

In the end, Solomon reflected upon his worldly success and came to a conclusion I have long felt indicative of a life well-lived: fearing God in our youth, seeking wisdom, and yet enjoying our days while we are here to enjoy them. Again, in Ecclesiastes 5:4, Solomon advises us to stand in awe of God: "When you make a vow to God, do not delay in fulfilling it. He has no pleasure in fools; fulfill your vow."  Yes, keeping our agreements matters very, very much.

Thus, there are many keys to building a kingdom.   To summarize, they are as follows:

I.  Align leadership with God.  By being in our higher power we can do great things.

II.  Focus on your primary mission.  Kingdoms without vision lack success.

III.  Gather internal resources and form open trade.  Sharing is a key to success.

IV.  Consolidate leadership and eliminate sources of strife.  Success breeds during peace.

V.  Form strategic alliances to gain resources, skills, and open trade routes.

VI.  Safeguard your valuable assets.  Keep the most valuable assets of the kingdom in the most cherished of places.

VII.  Rule wisely.  Practice integrity in all dealings.  Offer wisdom for wealth or vice-versa. 

VIII.  Celebrate Success.  Keep morale high by recognizing achievement of goals.

IX.  Avoid extravagance.  Spend what we need to achieve objectives, but avoid lavish parties.

X.  Keep your agreements.  Broken agreements lead to the demise of the kingdom.

We don't have to be religious to understand the spiritual aspects of this study of King Solomon's approach to building a kingdom.  There are so many valuable lessons contained in the life of Solomon.  He taught how to build a peaceful empire, in honor of God.  Solomon's name means (peaceful) and (beloved of Yahweh).  He was named from birth to be loved by God and peaceful.  

In a time where nations threaten war and challenge each other over oil and religious issues, there is high relevance to Solomon's skillful wisdom of building a peaceful kingdom.  Why not use his formula and build strong businesses, better government, and stronger organizations that thrive through peaceful alliances to better the world at large within which we live?

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Scott Andrews is CEO and Founder of AspireNow (www.AspireNow.com), a leading business coaching and personal development firm based in California. AspireNow recently spun our business solutions into ARRiiVE Business Solutions (www.ARRiiVE.com) through whom we help organizations launch new products and services, maximize sales, and innovatively change businesses through  cutting-edge and empowering business models and processes. For more information, visit http://www.ARRiiVE.com.

 

 

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