Chapter XIII Joseph (The Mature Leader)
Written by Ray Fairman   

When we look meticulously into the book of Genesis, Chapter 37, Verses 1-52 we will find out that there is a little lesson we can learn about leadership from Joseph. He was a leader who endured trials and reaped rewards while his leadership and influence matured over a period of time.

Just like money that is wisely invested, and as time goes by compounds its value through interest, leaders often increase their own value, stature and capabilities as time progresses. While all good leaders have some God given natural abilities, they can all augment their skills via the unfettered nurturing of other leaders over a period of time. True leadership has many facets, just like a diamond, that need to be perfected over a lifetime; Facets like respect, emotional strength, experience, people skills, confidence (Not to be confused with arrogance), discipline, vision, momentum, and timing and on and on as the list continues, almost ad infinitum and all that need some amount of polishing in order to be brought to their highest potential. We can see, I hope, that all leaders require some amount of seasoning, just like firewood and a fine wine, so I am told.


I like to think Joseph was given to us by God as an example of this Principle of Maturation. When looking at his life circumspectly a person can learn just how, over any given period of time, God can work with anyone of us to establish our Christian leadership potential. I feel that there are four distinct phases of leadership training exemplified in Joseph's journey toward his role as a leader. Before examining these phases let me first set the stage. Joseph's brothers saw a cocky kid who was not content just to be his father's favorite son, no; they felt like he had to rub his position as the favorite in their faces. When he received a vision from God that he would one day lead not only his whole family, including his parents and brothers, he enthusiastically told them all about it not only once, but twice. He was rebuked by his father for this perceived arrogance and despised by his brothers who wanted revenge. Eventually they plotted and executed their plan of deception. Now the stage is set, so let's continue. 

In Phase 1, which I will refer to as the "You don't know what you don't know" phase, you can see that Joseph like all of us began life in a state of "leadership ignorance". He didn't understand his own family's dynamics like how his brothers would react or maybe he just didn't care what they thought about his vision. It is apparent that Joseph did things and said things without taking the impact of his actions on interpersonal relationships into account. The result of this action was more than two decades of estrangement from his family. A leader who always acts in haste generally has some resultant consequences for themselves and more often than not for others around them. Think of the pain caused to Joseph's father, who thought for so long that his beloved son's was dead and the guilt and even remorse that must have been felt by his brothers when they considered the impact of their actions in response to Joseph's actions.

In Phase 2, which I will refer to as the "You know what you don't know" phase, Joseph during his time in slavery began to understand that there was much about the responsibilities of God's leadership plan for his life that he did not yet understand. He began to feel the weight of leadership and over those years was subject to betrayal and punishment and was also exposed to lessons in human nature and relationship development. It was through these processes that his character began to develop and strengthen, helping him learn and more fully understand the meanings of humility, patience and service.

During Phase 3, which I will call the "As You know and you grow, it starts to show" phase Joseph learned that only after he had paid the price of preparation and learned many of life's lessons the hard way was he capable of responding to the opportunity provided as promised in his earlier vision and get the chance to display his great skills as a mature leader. His exceptional and wise performance for Pharaoh didn't just happen; he developed it over about 13 years of paying quite a price. The eventual result of course was his promotion to a position of leadership that found him second in command of all Egypt.

In the last phase, Phase 4, which I will call the "You simply act because of what you know" phase, you enter the final phase of your leadership journey, a phase that never ends. When Joseph was building storehouses in preparation for the impending famine, he didn't take time to stop to think about what he was learning and how it would benefit him. He simply went about his work daily doing that which had to be done to the best of his ability with all the right reasons as his motivation, adding to the wealth of his master. And eventually through the opportunities brought about by this maturing, he was able to fulfill God's vision for his life. This could not happen until the cocky kid who would be the boss, became a fully-grown and wise leader.

Where are you on the leadership ladder?  Are you near the insecure, bossy bottom or climbing toward the more confident, secure and mature upper end? Wherever you are, remember that leaving a legacy of strong, competent and ethical leadership is the most effective way there is of positively impacting the future generations to whom we leave the world in which we live.

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