In Genesis 41, Joseph wins big when he successfully interprets Pharaoh’s dreams. The narrative is no doubt familiar to you. But I want to point out an application that has nothing to do with starving grain and cannibalistic cattle. When I read this story, I see Joseph modeling three timeless qualities of good leadership and communication. Let me explain ...
When the story opens, Joseph isn’t having a good day. Actually, he’s not having a good few years. Joseph is then called from prison to appear before Pharaoh and interpret his dreams. Joseph’s future hinged on the way he communicated with the most powerful man in the world. (So it’s not that different from being called into the senior pastor’s office after a particularly messy weekend youth event!) By the end of his conversation with Pharaoh, Joseph had been elevated to a position of great importance and power.
Now, certainly Joseph’s deliverance was due to God working to accomplish His sovereign plan. We can still look at how Joseph handled this conversation and see three truths we can apply in our own communication.
Joseph had a good plan in approaching Pharaoh. The Egyptians were obsessive about cleanliness, going so far as to shave their bodies with pumice stones. Joseph, suddenly called into the presence of the Pharaoh, did not proceed straight to the throne room. Instead, verse 14 tells us that Joseph stopped along the way to bathe, change clothes, and shave. This discernment set Joseph up for success.
Knowing the how, when, and where of communication is similarly important. If you need to tell a parent something they will remember, don’t do it in passing when you’re busy on a Sunday morning. Calling them, sending an email, or setting up a time to get together will be much more successful. If you need to follow up with an upset parent, talking face-to-face, or, at the very least, a phone conversation, are your only good options. Like Joseph, showing discernment in your communication gives you the best opportunity to accomplish your goals.
In verse 16, when Pharaoh asked Joseph for an interpretation of Pharaoh’s dream, Joseph was quick to step out of the way and give the credit to God. Once the dream had been successfully interpreted, Joseph still never asked for recognition. Joseph’s humility allowed God to get the credit.
Humility is a necessary characteristic of good leadership and communication. If you’re in the wrong, nothing has the power to diffuse frustration and anger like a humble apology. Humility is an even better quality to have when things go well!
A good rule of thumb is to always pass credit along for the things that go great and take the blame for things that go poorly. When a parent thanks you for how much his son loves being in small group, brag on how great your volunteer leaders are. When the senior pastor comments on how he heard that camp went really well, talk about how much your students love and support one another. Taking the credit is easy, but it will slowly erode your team. Passing the credit along increases team and builds community.
Wisdom goes hand-in-hand with humility and discernment, but it’s worth mentioning separately. Joseph didn’t rest on the success of correctly interpreting Pharaoh’s dream. Joseph immediately implemented a wise plan of action based on the knowledge God had revealed. This plan so greatly impressed Pharaoh that he promoted Joseph to second in command.
Good leaders always look to build on their wins. No matter how effective your ministry has been, no matter how healthy, planning for improvement is vital. Wisdom plays a huge role in this. It’s essential to know where God wants to take you. It’s equally as important to be able to communicate this to your supervisors and your team.
Even if you’re never put in the proverbial sandals of Joseph — having to nail a win-or-go-home conversation — these leadership traits should be at the heart of how you communicate with parents and church leaders.
Embracing these timeless qualities may never get you promoted to second-in-command, but they will ensure that your ministry runs as effectively and peacefully as possible. And when that happens, you, like Joseph, will bless people in a larger way than you could have previously imagined.
Image courtesy of shutterstock.com / (c) DmZ