Leadership Develops Daily, Not in a Day
BECOMING A LEADER is a lot like investing in the stock market. If you hope to make a fortune in a day, you’re doomed. It’s what you do day by day, over the long haul, that matters most. If you continually develop your leadership, letting your “assets” compound over time, the inevitable result is growth.
Although some individuals have greater natural gifts than others, nearly all the skills of leadership can be learned and improved. But that process doesn’t happen overnight. Leadership has so many facets: respect, experience, emotional strength, people skills, discipline, vision, momentum, timing—the list goes on. That’s why leaders require so much seasoning to be effective.
The good news is that you can grow in your ability to lead. Regardless of your starting point, you can improve.
Joseph was a cocky kid, too arrogant for his own good. He didn’t think it enough to be the favorite of his father, the child who received special treatment, the son of Jacob’s old age. Joseph had to rub it in.
When God gave Joseph a dream revealing that he would one day lead his family—not only his 11 brothers, but also his parents—Joseph thoughtlessly told everyone about it. Twice. His father rebuked him. His brothers wanted revenge.
And they got it.
Early in his life, Joseph didn’t know how to skillfully work with others. He lacked experience, wisdom, and humility—three qualities gained only with the passage of time. Joseph’s life illustrates the Law of Process. Observe how time and experience contributed to the development of Joseph’s leadership skills:
Phase One: I don’t know what I don’t know.
Everyone starts out in a state of ignorance. That’s where Joseph began. He didn’t understand the dynamics of his family. Either he couldn’t imagine how his brothers might react when he described his dream, or he didn’t care. The Scripture says his brothers already hated him; when he described his dream, they hated him even more. Joseph did and said things without understanding the interpersonal issues involved. His ignorance cost him more than three decades of alienation from his family.
Phase Two: I know what I don’t know.
It took a life-changing incident to capture Joseph’s attention and start him on the road to change. Thrust into slavery in Egypt, he began to learn what he didn’t know. He came to understand that leadership is difficult and carries a huge weight of responsibility. Over the years, Joseph suffered betrayal and learned hard lessons in human nature, relationships, and leadership. The process molded his character, granting him both patience and humility. Eventually he recognized God as his source of blessing and power.
Phase Three: I know and grow and it starts to show.
Leaders who show great skill when opportunities arise, shine only because they’ve paid the price of preparation. When Pharaoh finally called Joseph, the young man performed with excellence and great wisdom. He didn’t succeed because he suddenly got good at age 30; he succeeded because he paid the price for 13 years. Joseph’s hard-won wisdom and discernment got him promoted to second in command of what was then the most powerful nation on earth.
Phase Four: I simply go because of what I know.
During seven years of plenty, Joseph executed his leadership plan with great skill. He filled the cities of Egypt with grain and prepared the country for a famine. But one can see how far his leadership had grown only by observing what he did during the lean years that followed. While he focused on feeding the people of Egypt, the strength of his leadership allowed him to feed the people of other lands as well. In the process, he brought untold money, livestock, and land into his master’s possession. He also fulfilled the prophecy of his teenage dreams.
Every effective leader needs time to develop, but time alone cannot make someone an effective leader. Some individuals never discover the Law of Process, never work at growth, and therefore remain at Phase One their entire lives.
Fortunately for the children of Israel, Joseph did not stop at the first stage. He grew in his journey from the pit to the palace. Yet nearly 23 years passed before he reunited with his brothers and saw his own vision fulfilled. At the end, Joseph realized that God had directed the process of his development as a leader, and that he had been groomed for a much greater purpose than he ever imagined as a cocky teenager.
By the time his father died, Joseph had learned to see things from God’s perspective. When his brothers feared for their lives, Joseph calmed their nerves by saying, “Do not be afraid, for am I in the place of God? But as for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, in order to bring it about as it is this day, to save many people alive” (Gen. 50:19, 20).
At last Joseph could trace God’s hand over all the years of his life. And he understood the Lord’s long-term plan for His people, a plan Joseph helped fulfill by growing into the leader God desired him to be.