The story of Abraham really changed my perspectives on leadership. We don’t know Abraham’s birth order but as we follow him, there are things I had never seen. God deliberately used people despite their age and birth order. Let me demonstrate
Isaac wasn’t the first born of Abraham’s loin, but he was the son of promise. Jacob was the younger son, but he was the one appointed to live out the word of God over his family. Joseph was the first son of his mother but the second last of his father, yet he was designed to lead and change the world through becoming Pharoah’s deputy and feeding the whole world as they knew it then. When Israel was about to die, he blessed Judah to be the one in the lead, yet he was the third son and not the eldest. When Israel was blessing Joseph’s lineage he made Ephraim over Manasseh.
Why does this stand out?
For so long we have told people that the older ones need to be the leaders but that isn’t always true. Leadership is a factor of age because age is simply the passage of time. An elder I know used to say that everyone grows old and if they do not get wise, the village fool will still be the village fool when he is 100 because leadership is about the capacity to gain wisdom and understanding.
When we first meet Joseph he was an arrogant young man whose head was puffed up because he saw things in the future and because of his lower position in life, he wanted to prove he was better. This behaviour really irritated his brothers because based on their understanding of leadership as a function of age, they worked to take him down permanently. Ironically, taking him down caused them more grief than they ever thought would be possible for the rest of their days…so imagine a community with leaders like these ones.
What does it take to be a leader?
Confidence: Even though Joseph was young and relatively foolish, he knew that the dreams he had were about him. He knew in his heart that it was who he was and it would come to pass. This confidence ensured that he would be consistent and rise into positions of leadership wherever he was, as a slave, a prisoner and then at the top of the tier.
Consistency: No matter where he was, Joseph was consistent, he did his work well and in time God blessed him, his work and the people he worked for. this consistency meant that no matter the situation and the location, he was able to change the lives of people.
Compassion: He understood that he was a steward and not the owner but he ensured that the people working were well cared for. Remember how he looked at the cupbearer and baker in the morning and noticed they were disturbed. Many leaders are not interested in their people’s moods or emotional states and that is detrimental to the team morale. His awareness of the people in his ecosystem ensures that it keeps working well and aids his success.
Constant learning: Many of us are used to leaders who don’t know a lot but mask it by talking down at people or being bullies. One of the things I think he did well was to keep learning. Joseph was the spoiled son of a wealthy man so was used to having servants around. Of course, they took care of the sheep but do you actually think he knew how to manage a store and lead a team?
Leadership is about showing others the way and if you are immature, you cannot lead effectively. It is therefore not a function of age but of one’s desire to grow and move forward. So before you call yourself a leader, look at the list above and see where you fit. If there is room to get better, go to the place you need to and get better.
So don’t tell me you are appointed to lead just because time has passed and you are older than me chronologically. Don’t expect me to follow you because you are older and think you have done a lot. Come and lead me if you are indeed an appointed leader and able to inspire people around you to focus on growth and change. Come and please give me more than age as the reason I should follow you.
Let us stop using age as the measure of leadership and look at the ability to inspire, show the way, model patterns of success and a commitment to the cause. Leadership rises and falls on the shoulders of those who are willing to put in the work to change and keep changing.