As the story of Joseph remarkably demonstrates, farsightedness is a core gift of leadership. Joseph’s ability to see and understand what others do not opens the doors for his work as lead servant of Egypt. He sees the implications of Pharaoh’s dreams… And he simultaneously sees what should be done… Leadership requires both insight into the fundamental problems facing an organization and insight into the trajectory of their resolution.
How do we seek the Lord? What does this mean for those of us who are already in covenant relationship with him? In part, seeking God is a matter of paying attention… We pay attention to him from the moment we wake to the moment we close our eyes at night. We don’t look for God only in so-called “sacred” spaces, but equally in so-called “secular” places. God is present and active everywhere. We are invited to discern his presence and activity wherever we are.
He created us in his image, calling us to be fruitful and multiply, to work so that the world might be filled… But God also created play. He made us with the capacity to jest, to dance, to laugh. The example of Leviathan encourages us to enjoy life, to do things that are not necessarily productive in the ordinary sense, though they are productive of delight, health, and community. Our playfulness reflects the creative intentions of our playful God.
In an astonishing turnaround, Joseph is transformed from a forgotten prisoner of Egypt to its prime minister. Pretty intoxicating stuff for a young man who just turned thirty. Coming into power, at any age, can be dangerous. As Lord Acton’s famous adage reminds us, “Power tends to corrupt, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.” Yet leadership invariably brings power with it. How do we wield power well? How do we resist the corrosive quality of power in our lives?
When we worship, we communicate with God. We thank God. We praise God. We express our love for God. God is the true receiver of our worship.But there are times when we might talk to ourselves when we worship. At least that’s what we see modeled in Psalm 103. This glorious psalm begins with what we might call “self-talk.” The psalm writer, identified here as David, speaks to himself: “Praise the LORD, my soul; all my inmost being, praise his holy name.”
What Joseph experiences under compulsion, Jesus chooses freely. And here is the crux of the matter: he invites us as lead servants to make the same choice, for love’s sake. We are called to freely and fully love even our enemies, including those closest to us, at home and at work. I’m sure it wasn’t easy for Joseph to learn (and live!) this insight. I know it isn’t easy for me.
We pray. We ask for something we need. And we want God to answer right away. But our desire for God to respond quickly to our prayers isn’t simply a product of a technological age. In Psalm 102, for example, we read the prayer of an individual who badly needs God’s help. Verse 2 reads, “Do not hide your face from me when I am in distress. Turn your ear to me; when I call, answer me quickly” (102:2).
How easy it is for those of us who are in positions of leadership to squander our integrity at home. We appear to be people of high ethics in our workplace or public endeavors, but we may be altogether different when we’re with our family and friends or when we are alone. No matter how I live and lead in public, I ask myself what my wife and children really think of me. Do they see me as a person of integrity? Or do they know I major in hypocrisy?
Leadership formation, at least in the biblical sense, seems like a long, painful process. We live in an age of abundant, easy-to-consume leadership advice. But, as others have noted, learning about leadership is not the same as becoming a better leader… Rather, the story of Joseph reminds us that the formation of a leader’s character through suffering, often over long periods of time, is critical.
Psalm 100:3 reminds us that we belong to God: “Know that the LORD is God. It is he who made us, and we are his; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.” We belong to God because he made us. He made each one of us individually. And he made us to be his people together… What difference does it make that we belong to God? A huge difference, really. The fact that we belong to God can transform our lives.