Do you know how to identify leadership in women? Visit a classroom of five-year-old girls. Look for the little miss who is eager to share opinions and ideas about how games should be played. Watch her take charge. Dare to call her bossy as she organizes the group for play.
Miriam displayed similar characteristics of leadership as a young girl when placed in a precarious position. When we first meet her, Miriam is involved in one of the most unusual baby-sitting jobs recorded in history. Hidden along the banks of the Nile River, she cast a watchful eye over her baby brother, Moses, as he floated down the river. Separate the reeds and peek into the story of this enterprising and brilliant young girl.
The Israelites living in Egypt were expanding. Pharaoh was afraid they would organize and threaten his kingdom. An annihilation plan was executed, ordering midwives to kill all Hebrew boys as soon as they were born. The midwives feared God and would not participate in Pharaoh’s evil scheme. Pharaoh was determined disintegration would come another way. He ordered the people to throw all newborn Israelite boys into the Nile River. Mourning quaked at the sound of the first cries of a baby boy. The pains of labor went deep within the Jewish nation’s soul, echoing through the depths of the Nile.
Jewish girls learned to be housewives and mothers under the tutelage of their mothers until marriage. Miriam helped her mother hide baby Moses for three months until they could no longer conceal the vigorous infant. She bounced him on her knee as her mother waterproofed a papyrus reed basket with tar and pitch. She stood in the distance as her mother placed him in the basket and eased it in the water at the river’s edge.
Sunlight glistened on the wet skin of the Pharaoh’s daughter as she bathed in the river. When the princess saw the little basket among the reeds, she told one of her servant girls to get it for her. Crocodile tears flooded the eyes of the baby staring back at the princess. She knew he was one of the Hebrew children her father had ordered killed. His helpless cries touched her heart; she had compassion for him.
Miriam stood guard at a distance. Praying, watching, waiting for just the right moment for Pharaoh’s daughter to discover her baby brother. Thinking fast, the clever and gutsy Miriam stepped forward and asked, “Shall I go and call a nurse for you from the Hebrew woman, that she may nurse the child for you?” Given permission, Miriam brought the baby back to the care of his mother. Moses went home with his family because of her quick action. Now that’s a girl with leadership skills!
Later we see the spunky older Miriam helping her brothers in the massive undertaking of leading over two million people from oppression to freedom. As the Israelites emerged from the Red Sea’s parted waters, Miriam’s heart burst into praise as she worshiped the Lord in song. Miriam’s hands reached for a timbrel, and the women followed her.
How do you identify women with leadership skills? Consider the qualities we see in young Miriam. She was brave, protective, and confident in caring for her baby brother. Obedient to the direction of her mother. Quick-thinking when the princess embraced baby Moses. Fearless in executing a plan for his ongoing care. The older and wiser Miriam demonstrates an ability to lead while supporting the senior leadership of her brothers.
Sheryl Sandberg writes, “I want every little girl who’s told she’s bossy to be told instead that she has leadership skills.” Be the voice that inspires them to lead.