Leadership Lessons From Pharaoh by Prof Gerald August

Nov 30th, 2010 by developer in Portion of the Week

Leadership Challenges

Pharaoh had dreamed dreams and neither his magicians nor his wise men knew what the dreams meant. Pharaoh’s chief butler remembered Joseph had interpreted dreams. So he was brought to Pharaoh.  Joseph explained that Egypt would have seven years of bountiful harvests and seven years of famine. His advice was to store up plenty of food in the seven good years so food would be available for the seven bad years.

Pharaoh accepted Joseph’s interpretation of the dreams. And he did something amazing. He decided to appoint Joseph to head this project and be second in command to Pharaoh.

Why is this amazing? There was no need to appoint Joseph to any position. Pharaoh already had enough information to save the country. There were people who administered the agricultural system. Did he really need Joseph to be the chief administrator?

Consider who Joseph was. He had been accused of rape and was imprisoned. He was an alien. A good analogy would be from the American Civil War. Let us suppose there was a slave in the South who told his master what the battle plans would be in each upcoming battle for both the North and South and how to counter both plans. In other words, a bigger military genius than Robert E. Lee. The slave’s master probably would have gone to Jefferson Davis, the president of the Confederacy, and told him about this brilliant black slave.

How would Davis respond?  The slave would not be made commander of the Confederate forces because that would be unacceptable. Instead, he probably would have been  brought to the Confederate capital and housed in a nice place  near the Confederate White House. President David could have consulted with the slave on a regular basis and then send his ideas to the generals. The slave would want for nothing, and would probably be freed at the end of the war. Also, by keeping quiet about the slave, Davis could take the credit himself.

That would be the expected act from a Pharaoh

Yet, this Pharaoh decided to elevate Joseph. This might be the first instance in history of a meritocracy. Joseph gets the job because he is the best suited, non-withstanding all the strikes against him.

What are the lessons we learn? First, we learn to accept advice from the best person, no matter the outward appearance or circumstances of the person. It did not matter that Joseph did not have an MBA from Cairo University or was not a senior vice president at a food distribution company. Pharaoh saw talent.

We also learn that a good leader will try to do the best for his people despite the unpopularity of his actions. Was it not galling for the Egyptian hierarchy to take orders from a foreign man accused of rape, and a former prisoner? It probably was. But Pharaoh did not care.

The third thing we learn is a lesson best expressed on a sign in Ronald Reagan’s office.  “There is no limit to what you can accomplish if you don’t care who gets the credit.” Recognition will spur people to achieve. In politics, business, or a family.

Pharaoh taught us to get good advice, get the best practitioner and to give people recognition. Good lessens from the Pharaoh of Genesis.