Posted: November 7th, 2023
Joseph and David: The Qualities of a Leader
February 6, 2022
Joseph and David: The Qualities of a Leader
The story of David is a perfect illustration that leaders do not have to be perfect to be significant in history. God raised David to be the leader of the Israelites from a tender age of thirteen, with his reign lasting for four decades. However, despite having spiritual mentors with more integrity, such as Joseph, David made several mistakes along the way. Unlike David, Joseph rose to power when Israel was young and in need of a diplomatic and loyal ruler. Contrastingly, David was born into a more established Israel that was losing sight of God. This study draws parallels between David and Joseph, highlighting key leadership attributes to explain why the former was suited for kingship. Leaders, as human beings, are prone to error, which is why they all need moral or spiritual guidance. Leaders have to be humble to remain subject to moral judgment. While David was less integral compared to Joseph, both are good examples of leaders suited for kingship because they display a deep understanding of God’s preference for servitude, humility, and persistence in leadership.
Attributes of a Leader
Persistence in Leadership
A leader with faith can succeed in whatever circumstances he is put in as long as he or she has God’s guidance. A shared observation between David and Joseph is that they both had confidence in their ability to succeed due to their rough past experiences. As the youngest in their families, both David and Joseph were responsible for the family’s flock. David argues that he grew persistent while working as a shepherd because he constantly had to fight off lions and bears that came to steal family flock. He was going to use the same persistence to fight off the Philistines (1 Samuel, 17:34-36). David was expected to protect his father’s sheep from all dangers in the desert despite having a small frame. Similarly, he was at a physical disadvantage when fighting Goliath. The experience and confidence built in past battles gave him the persistence to stand against the Philistine giant. It was God that delivered David from the lion’s claws, and it was God who would provide victory against Goliath. God was always in pursuit of ordinary individuals with the ability to overcome extraordinary situations to become leaders of new Israel.
Leadership success is built on the ability to convert negatives into positives. Joseph developed a similar emotional and physical resilience during his early childhood in the same way as David. The leader faced a lot of sarcasm and cynicism from his brothers due to his wild dreams and imaginations. The book of Genesis documents that Joseph’s brothers hated and conspired to kill the dreamer (Genesis, 37:5). Joseph was sold to slavery because his dreams implied that one day his brothers would serve him. Throughout human history, leaders are anticipated to succeed regardless of the conditions they inherit. Joseph’s resilience allowed him to thrive as a slave in Potiphar’s house and prison. Despite the harsh living conditions and unjust life developments, Joseph succeeded in any duty tasked to him. For example, according to the book of Genesis (39:3-4), Joseph’s master saw that the Lord was with him and that the Lord ensured he succeeded in whatever he did with his hands. While working as both a slave and prisoner, Joseph rose in rank to lead his peers due to his commitment to work. The leader placed faith in his future provisions on God, which allowed him to weather his life’s outcomes. Resilience was one of the main factors behind Joseph’s ability to derive positives from very little.
Servitude in Leadership
David and Joseph are good examples of spiritual leaders who grew through serving others. David benefited from the early opportunity to develop into a leader by serving King Saul in the palace. In context, David was placed in an environment where he could observe a leader who was not growing because of not following God’s instructions. The book of Samuel reports that King Saul grew impatient while at Gilgal, choosing to offer sacrifices to God without the arrival of Prophet Samuel (1 Samuel, 13:3-11). Leading sacrificial proceedings was a spiritual duty specifically reserved for prophets. Saul grew in pride as King, failing to observe his role as servant to God. David showed a different understanding of servitude while acting as King. For instance, David danced to the Lord to a point his robes fell off in front of people (2 Samuel, 6: 13-15). A leader must have a love for the Lord to maintain a state of servitude to him.
Servitude comes even after an individual secures a leadership position. David remained obedient in his service, fulfilling all the promises he gave to people years before. Servitude is a significant part of showing loyalty and kindness to people even after climbing up the social ladder. Class readings inform that David gave Mephibosheth, King Saul’s grandson, all the property owned by his grandfather due to a promise given to Jonathan (2 Samuel 9: 6-11). When Mephibosheth questions why David would be so kind, the King responds that he owed a debt to Jonathan and that his son was meant to be eating with him at the King’s table (2 Samuel 9: 6-11). Servitude in kingship means remaining true to your word. If followers cannot hold a leader accountable to their promises, moral reasoning demands that the leader maintain his integrity and credibility. Following David’s accession to King, nobody from King Saul’s bloodline remained a threat to his life. Despite this huge advantage over his enemy, David did not allow Saul’s family to suffer poverty due to his close relationship with Jonathan.
Experience in servitude is the main basis of leadership success. Joseph rose from being a slave to a diplomat by serving under several masters. As a slave, the master observed that God was with Joseph and made him the overseer of his house. Once again, while in prison, the warder notices God is with Joseph, which results in his promotion over other inmates (Genesis, 39: 1-23). Joseph ensured that he glorified God with all his words and actions regardless of his environment. The underlying lesson was a successful leader does not respond to work with bitterness but with integrity. For instance, it is while working as the Pharaoh’s cup-bearer that Joseph learned politics and diplomacy (Genesis, 40). Joseph needed time within the King’s court to learn how to deal with leaders and people from other kingdoms. God placed him in positions where he could gain substantial leadership experience to work with foreigners during the long drought. However, Joseph would not have grown into a successful leader if he had not embraced his role as a servant first.
Humility in Leadership
Effective leaders are individuals who avoid anger and resentment, forgiving those that harm them when given the opportunity. Joseph had a gift from God that had negative implications when used with pride and positive implications when applied with humility. In the book of Genesis (37: 1-11), Joseph’s brothers sold him to slavery because he boasted that they would one day bow under his feet. Numerous accounts from the Bible, ranging from King Saul to the Epistle Paul, highlight that God hates prideful individuals. Contrastingly, God loves humble individuals. Joseph succeeded during times when he did not lament concerning his condition. The leader did not complain about being a victim of injustice throughout his young adult life. Instead, he met all the tasks and opportunities that came to him, regardless of how small they were. Joseph always made sure to give credit to God whenever interpreting the Pharaoh’s dreams (Genesis, 42: 15-16). By stating the dreams and interpretations are from God, Joseph was seen as trustworthy and honest. The attributes granted him favour in Pharaoh’s eyes, resulting in his promotion to the second command in Egypt.
Humility in God’s understanding of leadership entails acknowledging one’s mistakes and repenting whenever a person sins. David was less humble than Joseph because he violated several of God’s principles. However, the leader constantly sought forgiveness by repenting. After engaging in unlawful sexual relations with Bathsheba, David does not shift any blamer and appeals for God’s forgiveness (2 Samuel, 11:27). David sacrificed his flock and offered God some of the most expensive fruits at the time. David was guilty of taking another man’s wife and was humble enough to repent the mistake in public. In addition, the leader ensured that he did not commit such a sin again. In God’s eye, leadership involves forgiveness and reconciliation. However, to attain forgiveness, a person must acknowledge their fault and commit to changed behaviours. Repentance provides an opportunity for growth because it reconciles man with God. David’s pursuit of reconciliation aligns with contemporary leadership, specifically how conflict resolution is used in human resource management.
Joseph and David were not perfect individuals, but they became two of the most prominent leaders in the Old Testament under God’s guidance. The two leaders follow a messianic pattern where they are first rejected, undeservedly punished and then unexpectedly loved by the people. Hardship experiences from a tender age teach them to be persistent, humble and dutiful. The leaders grow because they maximize on opportunities God gives them to serve others. Their credibility, worth and trustworthiness while working as juniors increases due to their tendency to give God all the credit. Even after becoming important people in society, David and Joseph remain humbled, which allowed them to continue meeting the common man at his or her needs. Within all these attributes of a leader, a strong relationship with God is deeply rooted in David and Joseph’s definition of leadership.
The Jewish Publication Society. (1985). TANAKH: A new translation of the Holy Scriptures according to the traditional Hebrew text. The Jewish Publication Society.
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