Leadership Lessons from the Life of Joseph

October 3rd, 2019

Joseph is one of my favorite characters in the Bible. Alistair Begg writes that his story is a tale of jealousy, deceit, slavery, misrepresentation, injustice, lust, rivalry, and forgiveness. It is also a wonderful example of how God worked in Joseph’s life through all of its ups and downs. Alistair Begg tells us that Joseph was a life-sized illustration of Romans 8:28.

And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

We are introduced to Joseph in Genesis 37:2 when he was only 17 years old. His father Jacob favored Joseph more than his other sons. Because of this, and poor judgement by Joseph in sharing a dream he had about his brothers bowing down to him, his brothers were jealous of him and hated him.  This resulted in them selling him into slavery (Genesis 37:28).

Begg tells us that there is no ideal place to serve God except the place in which He has set you down. God eventually set Joseph down in Egypt, in the house of Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard. We are told that the LORD was with Joseph and he became a successful man. The LORD caused all that he did to succeed in his hands. Joseph found favor in Potiphar’s sight, and he made him overseer of his house, putting him in charge of all that he had. The LORD blessed Potiphar’s house for Joseph’s sake, and the blessing of the LORD was on all that he had (Genesis 39: 2-5).

We are told that Joseph was handsome in form and appearance (Genesis 39:7). Potiphar’s wife tried to tempt Joseph multiple times, and later she falsely accused him of trying to sleep with her. But Begg writes that Joseph’s resistance was more powerful than his temptation. Still, Potiphar put Joseph in prison as a result of the accusations (Genesis 39:20).

In prison, we see again that the LORD was with Joseph, showing him steadfast love and favor with the keeper of the prison who put him in charge of all of the prisoners. The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge because the LORD was with him. Whatever Joseph did, the LORD made it succeed (Genesis 39: 21-23).

Joseph accurately interpreted the dreams of two prisoners, but the chief cupbearer did not remember him, and forgot him in prison for two years, until Joseph was given the opportunity to interpret Pharaoh’s dream.  This led to the Pharaoh putting Joseph, then 30 years old, over all the land of Egypt, second only to Pharaoh himself. (Genesis 41: 40-41). He then led Egypt well through seven years of plenty and the following seven years of famine.

From slavery to prison to second in command in Egypt, God was always with Joseph. Although we can focus on many things about the incredible life of Joseph, who Begg tells us in the details of his life he foreshadowed Jesus Christ, let’s specifically look at his leadership. Here are 6 key leadership characteristics that Joseph displayed, which would be good for all leaders to model.

Perseverance – Despite the many ups and downs in his life (sold into slavery, falsely accused of attempted rape by Potiphar’s wife and imprisoned, forgotten in prison for two more years by the chief cupbearer), Joseph was faithful, and never questioned God’s plan for him. We are told throughout his story that the LORD was with him. This is a good lesson for all leaders, who will go through many successes and failures in their careers.

Character – Although he was spoiled by his father’s favoritism, and his own arrogance, Joseph eventually grew into a man of character. I like the definition of character as being “Doing the right thing when nobody (but God) is watching”. Joseph was handsome and he could have easily given into the temptation of Potiphar’s wife. Nobody (but God) would have known. But he resisted and ended up being sent to prison when he was falsely accused of attempted rape. Oh, for more leaders today with godly character.

Good worker – Throughout Joseph’s life – in the house of Potiphar, in the prison and as second in command in Egypt – we see that Joseph’s good work was rewarded by the LORD. We are told that whatever Joseph did, the LORD made it succeed. We should do our very best work and then leave it to God to bless it.

Humble – Joseph was humble and gave credit to God, not taking it for himself. For example, in Genesis 42: 15-16, Pharaoh tells Joseph that he has had a dream and has heard that Joseph can interpret dreams. Rather than taking the credit, Joseph humbly and honestly states that it is not him, but God who will give Pharaoh a favorable answer. Do we sometimes take credit ourselves, rather than giving it to the Lord?

Trustworthy – Joseph was trustworthy and loyal. When tempted by Potiphar’s wife, he would not betray Potiphar, nor sin against God. He said:

But he refused and said to his master’s wife, “Behold, because of me my master has no concern about anything in the house, and he has put everything that he has in my charge. He is not greater in this house than I am, nor has he kept back anything from me except you, because you are his wife. How then can I do this great wickedness and sin against God?”

Oh, to have such trustworthy leaders today.

Didn’t abuse his power – Unlike many leaders today, Joseph didn’t abuse the power he was given. As second in command in Egypt, he could have denied food to his brothers, or even thrown them in prison. Instead, he demonstrated forgiveness to them. We see many of our leaders today abusing the power they have been given. In addition, granting forgiveness is a wonderful characteristic of Christ-centered leaders.

These are just a few leadership lessons I took from the life of Joseph. What would you add to my list?

This is part of a series of articles on leadership origianlly published at Bill Pence's blogsite, Coram Deo and appears here by permission.