I am always inspired by the story of Joseph in the Bible. Here’s a guy who, despite a mountain of challenges, stayed faithful to God and ultimately became second in charge in Egypt. His life is an inspiring leadership story. In fact, you could say that Joseph exhibited a leadership six-pack that contributed to his success.
After being sold by his brothers to the Ishmaelites and then sold by the Ishmaelites to Potiphar (one of Pharaoh’s officials), Genesis 39 gives us a glimpse of six leadership qualities Joseph possessed. These qualities were the foundation for his growing influence while serving Potiphar, after being falsely accused of attempted rape, and while serving in prison.
1. Spiritual Authority – A common theme is woven over and over throughout Joseph’s story: “God was with Joseph and things went very well with him” (Genesis 39:2). Despite the unfair accusations hurled at Joseph, the depth of his relationship with God served as the firm foundation of his leadership. Spiritual authority—not position, charisma, expertise, or manipulation—was his primary source of influence. Author and professor Bobby Clinton says that spiritual authority is the true power base for mature ministry and enables a leader to influence followers through persuasion, modeling, and moral expertise.
2. Management Skills – Genesis 39 says that Potiphar “put him [Joseph] in charge of all his personal affairs, turning everything over to him.” When Joseph was thrown in prison, “The head jailer put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners–he ended up managing the whole operation.” Joseph’s excellence in management and organizational skills led to greater influence and responsibility. You might argue that God simply opened all of the right doors and all Joseph had to do was walk through them. While there may be some truth to that statement, I would suggest that Joseph didn’t hinder God’s blessing because he demonstrated faithful stewardship of the abilities and skills God had entrusted to him.
3. People Skills –The Bible says that Potiphar became very fond of Joseph and when Joseph was in prison, God “put him on good terms with the head jailer.” Joseph had a knack for connecting with people. His God-given relational skills put him on good terms with people and fostered relational equity with others in positions of influence. It was Theodore Roosevelt who said, “The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.” Joseph mastered that skill.
4. Personal Appearance – I know this one is controversial, but please hear me out. The Bible says, “Joseph was a strikingly handsome man” (Genesis 39:6)… so handsome that Potiphar’s wife wanted to sleep with him. I realize that a few people in the world are not “beautifully challenged,” but for the rest of us, we have to work at making ourselves presentable. My point is, right or wrong, people judge a book by its cover. You don’t have to be a knock-out model or dress like a Hollywood star to be a leader. But I do believe you need to take care of yourself, use good hygiene, stay healthy, and manage your weight. You can be the smartest person in the room but limit your influence because of a failure to present yourself well. Like it or not, most people assume your external appearance is a shadow of your internal disciplines…and vice versa.
5. Earned Trust – You cannot demand people to trust you. Trust is earned over time by consistent and honorable behavior. When Potiphar’s wife tried to entice Joseph to sleep with him, he responded, “How could I violate his [Potiphar’s] trust…” Joseph earned trust with his boss and he wasn’t about to sacrifice it on the altar of momentary pleasure. Craig Weatherup observed, “You don’t build trust by talking about it. You build it by achieving results, always with integrity and in a manner that shows real personal regard for the people with whom you work.”
6. Unwavering Character – Joseph had repeated opportunities to sleep with Potiphar’s wife, but he resisted every one of them. He said, “How could I violate his trust and sin against God?” (Genesis 39:9) and, “…he stood his ground. He refused to go to bed with her” (Genesis 39:10). As an official for Pharaoh, Potiphar probably could have had Joseph killed…or at the least quietly arranged his death. But Joseph’s character was like an echo in the recesses of Potiphar’s decision-making. Andy Stanley says, “Your accomplishments as a leader will make your name known. Your character will determine what people associate with your name.” Although Potiphar was furious, he had always associated Joseph’s name with character and integrity. Perhaps, in the depth of his soul, Potiphar knew Joseph was innocent.
If you read Joseph’s entire story, other leadership lessons are obvious (there’s certainly more than six qualities we can draw from Joseph’s life). One of those “extra” lessons is what I would call The Six-Pack Ring. When you purchase a six-pack of canned soft drinks, it’s usually fastened together by a six-pack ring. This plastic yoke keeps the six-pack connected together. I believe Joseph had a ring that fastened his leadership six-pack together: perspective.
Joseph’s ability to maintain the right perspective allowed him to finish well. Having perspective enables leaders to successfully navigate tests, trials, and seemingly unfair circumstances. It gives leaders the ability to see God at work when it would be easier to jump ship. And when Joseph’s brothers kneeled before Joseph trembling with fear (ultimately fulfilling his dream), Joseph allowed perspective to win the day: “Don’t be afraid. Do I act for God? Don’t you see, you planned evil against me but God used those same plans for my good, as you see all around you right now–life for many people. Easy now, you have nothing to fear; I’ll take care of you and your children” (Genesis 50:19-21). That is true, God-honoring perspective at work. Few leaders have it…but it’s a game changer in leadership.
Question: What are your thoughts on the leadership six-pack? How have you seen the leadership six-pack exhibited in leaders you respect?