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November 2014 -Three Leadership Lessons from Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph

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Last week took us from the creation until God's covenant with Abraham.  This week we focus on three leadership lessons from that time until the time of the captivity in Egypt.

Leaders make themselves available to serve.  Abraham willingly followed the call (12:1-9) and became one of the greatest leaders who ever lived; he became the father of many nations (17:1-6). What if Abraham had not responded to the call to leave the comfort of his situation and move with his wife, servants, livestock, and all his possessions to Canaan?  History would have been different.  Many leaders lead primarily for fortune and fame, but those who lead primarily to serve others are rare. The words of Jesus, who “came not to be served but to serve,” continue to influence Christians and non-Christians alike. During His life on earth, Jesus demonstrated that claim. Ernest Shackleton, the early twentieth-century explorer, is also an example of servant leadership. With his ship stranded in the ice, Shackleton spent two years on a dangerous 800-mile journey in a small boat across the freezing Antarctic seas and brought every one of his twenty-seven crew members home alive. Abraham Lincoln, Mother Teresa, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and Dr. Albert Schweitzer were servant leaders who put the needs of others ahead of their own. What if these people had not been willing to serve?

Leaders learn from failure. Jacob, the Father of the nation of Israel, failed many times, but he learned from his mistakes and finally got it right (28:10-22) and when he did he began to make a positive difference.  Dr. David Bronner who is CEO of the Retirement Systems of Alabama and one of the most successful and influential leaders in Alabama tells the TROY Leadership Development students that if they don’t fail they just haven’t tried anything challenging.  Personally, I have viewed failure as feedback so I can do better next time; for I believe the words of legendary basketball coach and leader John Wooden who said, “Failure isn’t fatal, but failure to change might be.”  Failure is not final, it is a chance to learn and improve.

 Leaders must earn trust if they want responsibility. Joseph went from being a slave to being prime minister because he earned the trust of Pharaoh (39-41).  Think on your own experience.  Would you work as hard for a leader you didn’t trust as you would for one you trust?  Of course not! My August 2005 column states, “Trust is one of the most important ingredients in any relationship, (for) without it, marriages fail, friendships disintegrate, and workplace productivity and satisfaction suffer.”  I went on to say that once lost, trust is hard to win back.  I outlined a way to do it.  But it is hard; therefore earn it and keep it.

Next month we will look at one of the greatest leaders of all times—Moses.


John Kline
Montgomery, Alabama

November 2014 - Three Leadership Lessons from Abraham, Jacob, and Joseph
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