How Leaders Hang On


Leadership is a crock pot venture in a microwave world. Sometimes we just need to hang on.

Great leaders do that. They have a dogged perseverance. In this post I share a few lessons from Joseph's life that can help you hang on when it might be easier just to let go.

Remember, Good Things Take Time

God made a promise to Joseph that Joseph was going to rule. Unfortunately, the Lord did not tell him it was going to be thirteen long and difficult years before he saw that promise fulfilled. Despite that, Joseph did not get bummed out or burned out. He trusted God.

We have the privilege of seeing Joseph's story unfold. Looking back over all that he experienced we are reminded that good things take time. We see this in Joseph's life. We also see it in the lives of others. In their books, How The Mighty Fall andWalk The Walk, Jim Collins and Alan Deutschman remind of the importance of perseverance:

  • "Most overnight success stories are about twenty-five years in the making." Jim Collins, How The Mighty Fall, 94.
  • "For decades Nelson Mandela recruited his followers one at a time . . . . He taught himself his captors language (Afrikaans) . . . . Twenty-three years into his sentence, he was granted a meeting with South Africa's Minister of Justice . . . ." Walk The Walk, p. 114-116.
  • "'Most Americans at the time knew next to nothing about fine wines; so I knew I had to be patient. And work like hell.' . . . . Bob Mondavi had spent a decade holding countless impromptu wine tastings whenever he went out to restaurants on his travels . . . ." Walk The Walk, p. 113, 117.
  • "From the first shareholders letter he wrote back in 1997, [Jeff Bezos] has consistently made clear that he would run Amazon by focusing on the future and shrugging off short-term worries." "Amazon finally reported a small profit in 2003, seven years after going public, but Bezos was still brazenly unconcerned about serving the stock analysts: as the company was turning ten years old in 2004, Amazon had failed to live up to the analysts' expectations . . . . And ultimately that "golden reputation" is what enabled Amazon to become a giant." Walk The Walk, p. 19-20.

Good things take time. Take the long view and trust God that He is working.

Trust God That He Is Working

There will be valleys on the way to the Mountain. Jealous brothers tossed Joseph in a pit. Potiphar's wife falsely accused him. Potiphar unjustly threw Joseph in the slammer.

All of us have valley chapters: The athlete experiences a career-threatening injury. The businessperson gets laid off. The parent becomes estranged from her child. The one you love becomes a victim of cancer. Your leadership is met with unexpected challenges.

It is during these adverse circumstances that we must cling to five marvelous words we read in Joseph's story: “the LORD was with Joseph.”

Now Joseph had been brought down to Egypt, and Potiphar, an officer of Pharaoh, the captain of the guard, an Egyptian, had bought him from the Ishmaelites who had brought him down there.The Lord was with Joseph, and he became a successful man, and he was in the house of his Egyptian master....

And Joseph’s master took him and put him into the prison, the place where the king’s prisoners were confined, and he was there in prison.But the Lord was with Joseph and showed him steadfast love and gave him favor in the sight of the keeper of the prison.

And the keeper of the prison put Joseph in charge of all the prisoners who were in the prison. Whatever was done there, he was the one who did it.The keeper of the prison paid no attention to anything that was in Joseph’s charge, because the Lord was with him. And whatever he did, the Lord made it succeed.
— Genesis 39:1,2, 20-23


The LORD was with Joseph and the LORD will be with you! How do I know? Because God is the same yesterday, today and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Knowing that, we can thank God for his presence and trust him in our trials.

Charles Spurgeon said, "God leads us into circumstances in which we are tempted to doubt his promises, that by temptation he may discipline faith into power." God is disciplining your faith into power. Trust him. 

One way we demonstrate trust is to thank God for our present circumstances. You may not like your leadership post right now. God is still working. By faith, thank him for what he is doing and what he will do.

Lead Faithfully For God Today

Every time we look at Joseph, he was faithfully serving God -- despite his circumstances. It would have been easy for Joseph to throw a pity party, but he did not do that. He brought his "A Game" to work every day. He served God faithfully every day.

Why did Joseph do that? Joseph knew that ultimately, he served God.

Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving. Colossians 3:23-24 NIV

You may be facing less than ideal circumstances as a leader. You may not like the direction the company is going. You may be upset with co-workers. You may be frustrated with your prospects. That is no reason to throttle down. Like Joseph, ultimately you serve God. Knowing that, what does it mean for you to lead faithfully for God today?

Hang On!

Leadership is tough work. Some days it is all we can do to hang on, but hang on. God is working. He will see you through.