Successful Leaders of the Bible


By Katara Washington Patton

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The third book in a new series bringing the experiences of favorite biblical figures to the challenges of contemporary life.

If you could drop biblical men and women into our world today, what kind of lessons might they teach you? In Successful Leaders of the Bible, the Bible’s most exceptional leaders come alive in fictionalized form to help readers understand that the lessons God imparted in the Bible millennia ago are just as applicable today as they were then. For example, if David lived today and continued to chase after God, how might God help him rise to a position of great power just as he did eons ago? If Moses was alive, imagine how God might use him to advocate for others. These stories are perfect for those who want to better themselves and see biblical characters in a whole new light.



Leader can be a broad description for anyone who influences others. Leaders include the CEO developing and carrying out a vision for an organization, a mother who manages her household, a pastor leading a congregation, and the Girl Scout leader sharing life skills with a troop of impressionable young girls. Leaders are teachers, administrators, students, doctors, lawyers, entertainers, and so on. Leaders are those who make a difference in someone else's life (whether that's a large group or just one person). If you look closely, you will see a leader within. We are all called to be leaders in one way or another, influencing, inspiring, and shaping one another's lives.

But how do we lead well? How do we serve God by serving God's people well? Again, the Bible has the answers. Our road map for life gives us a multitude of case studies on successful leadership. From what to do well to what not to do, we can find it in God's Word.

Explore with me ten of the Bible's successful leaders—how they met their goals and lived out their God-given mission to serve people. We will see they all had ups and downs and trials and tribulations, and throughout this book we will use their examples to find our own path toward successful leadership.

God has not left us without help. God has given us all we need to live successfully. It's in God's Word—awaiting our discovery. Let's use the Bible—and our imagination—to study the actions of those labeled as successful leaders so that we might find mentors and guides through biblical history to pattern our lives from and follow. We do not walk alone. We have a cloud of witnesses who have gone before us, who have encountered similar situations in a different time frame. Let's use their wisdom to propel us into success.


Successful leaders grow and develop through adverse circumstances as they pursue their God-given dreams.

You intended to harm me, but God intended it all for good. He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.

(Genesis 50:20, NLT)

Every human being has a dream at one point or another. Kids dream about growing up and being teachers, firefighters, or police officers. Teens dream about being independent and free from their parents. Adults dream about creating a good life for their families. Successful leadership starts off with a dream, whether big or small—a desire to be better, a desire to do better, or a desire to help someone else.

Yet life will show us that dreams don't often happen as we play them out in our minds; they grow and morph and change. And the mark of a successful leader is that he or she can grow and change with those dreams even when they seem faraway and out of reach. The way a person handles setbacks and challenges can be an accurate predictor of his or her ability to be a successful leader. We can all do good work under great conditions, with the support of our team, the love of our family, and encouragement from friends. But what happens when things go sideways or when you're the only one believing in your dream? Do you give up and bury the dream? Do you rehearse the issues, deciding the circumstances at hand are too overwhelming to overcome? A successful leader keeps moving forward, no matter how gloomy the forecast appears. He is always looking for new opportunities and paths to get to the goal. She uses adverse conditions to regroup and double up her efforts to forge ahead. True leaders have an inner determination to follow their dreams and vision no matter what happens. Even when their dreams seem far off, they hold on to their goals.

Look at Joseph's life. He exemplifies perseverance. He was given a dream at a very young age, as many of us are too, but he had no idea what he would go through to reach that goal. Yet his setbacks did not deter him; they propelled him to grow into a successful leader.

When we first meet Joseph in Genesis 37, he was his father's favorite son. Joseph was born to Jacob, also named Israel, in his late age (Genesis 37:3) and with the woman he loved the most (Rachel). Joseph was born into love—he was wanted and cherished and nurtured (oh, for every child to have this privilege). Joseph was the golden child, the one who garnered sweet memories as his father gazed upon him. Joseph was the one who received the best handpicked gifts from his father. If he lived today, he'd be the best-dressed child in class. He'd be the one with the expensive education. With all the privileges afforded to him, one would think Joseph was destined to be a leader. But even the privileged have to be developed into leaders. Your ability may seem natural—and it may be even God-given—but it will need to be developed. And like it or not, our best lessons and opportunities for growth come from our setbacks. How you handle adversity will determine your propensity for success.

The Dream

Very early on in the account of Joseph in Genesis, we learn that this favorite son had been given a dream—or vision—by God at a very young age. Joseph dreamed that he and his brothers were gathering bundles of wheat, and his bundle stood upright while his brothers' wheat bowed to his. He had another dream confirming his status as a leader: he dreamed the sun and moon and stars bowed to him (Genesis 37:6–9.) Joseph was destined to lead. Yet his immaturity seeped through; he still needed to be developed into a successful leader.

When he was given a dream that his brothers would bow down to him, Joseph didn't seem to stop even for a second to consider how this news would make his brothers, who were older, feel. He was so focused on his dream, he hadn't taken the time to consider its impact on anyone else. I hear him, excited to share the good news revealed to him. I hear his immaturity speaking loud and clear, assuming everyone will eagerly jump on board just because he has a vision.

Hey, brothers. I got some exciting news to share with you. I had a dream the other night, and I want to tell you about it. You all were in my dream too. Yes, Reuben, Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, Zebulun, Dan, Naphtali, Gad, and Asher—my dream included all of my big brothers. I was in the center. And y'all? Y'all were right there with me, bowing down to me. It's like the grain we gather. Just one bundle stands out while the others fall down around it. In my dream, my wheat stood straight up while the others lay down. That's us—can't y'all see it?

But wait, if you don't get that dream, I even had another dream—it's like confirmation. Let me tell y'all about that. But this time, instead of grain, God gave me a vision with the stars, moon, and sun—all the beautiful things God created. All of these beautiful creations of God bowed to me—me, Joseph. It was amazing. Can't y'all see this vision—the stars, sun, and moon all acknowledging little ole me? It was a great dream! I'm going to be great and in the center. Y'all will be there with me—supporting my greatness. Isn't God good? God is going to bless our family. I can't wait to see my dreams come true… can't y'all, big brothers?

Now just imagine what the older brothers were thinking as they listened to Joseph pour out his vision:

What, the youngest will be the one we bow to? Huh? Really? He's got to be crazy if he thinks we're going to follow him. Just because he's Dad's favorite doesn't mean he's ours. He thinks we are going to sing backup in his band. That's so not going to happen, little Joseph. We are not going to sit back and let you be in the center. Nope. It's not our mission in life to support you. Only in your dreams will we bow to you, young man. You are not our sun, stars, or moon.

I can imagine those older brothers sharing the same expressions I've seen in meetings when the overeager leader has attended a conference and is excited to share all of the new findings and the new improvements she is bringing to the organization. Every single employee is probably thinking: And who's going to do that? (Newsflash, dreamcaster: already overworked workers are not always eager to hear about the dream you see so clearly in front of your nose; all they hear from your vision is more work!) The leader casting the vision is probably right on point, like Joseph was. But what about the timing of this vision-casting session? What about the audience Joseph is sharing his goals with? A mature leader takes her audience and the timing into consideration when sharing goals.

Did Joseph really have to open his big mouth and share this with his brothers? Why didn't he consider how they might feel about his dreams? Everyone we meet does not need to hear how great we are, how wonderful we will become, all the promises we have stored up just for us. Really? Who wants to hear about you all of the time anyway? And even when the vision includes the group or family or organization we lead, a successful leader always takes into account what his listeners will hear; she cares enough to think of others first before proceeding with messages. Everything does not have to be delivered right now and in a manner that is insensitive or untimely. At the end of the month when all reports are due is probably not the best time to call a meeting about all of your new ideas, which you just so happened to conjure while you got to get away and enjoy a conference in a sunny offsite location. A leader considers the audience and the timing before he opens his mouth and shares the dream.

Leadership Takes More than a Dream or Vision

And while Joseph's dream was from God, Joseph may have been misguided as to what it really meant. God can give us visions and dreams, but rarely do we fully understand how these things will come to pass or even what they mean when they are first given to us. We'd mess them up or graciously decline the offer if God laid out all of his plans for us in the beginning!

With God-given dreams, we only see a portion of what God is calling us to do, and if we are not careful, we, like Joseph, can allow our human and partial vision to proclaim something that isn't really about God but about us. As a young boy, the leader Joseph couldn't see—or didn't care to see—how his father's favoritism coupled with his dreams impacted his relationship with those he would eventually lead. He was excited. He was enthusiastic, yet he had no idea what it would take for his vision to come to bear.

After sharing his dream of leading his brothers, Joseph is, unbeknownst to him, registered for the most aggressive leadership training program around—the ups and downs of life. Fueled by jealousy, Joseph's brothers sell the favored son and dreamer to traveling merchants, who resell him into slavery to an Egyptian officer (Genesis 37:28–36). Through serving in a foreign country as a slave, Joseph learns more than one can gather from an MBA at a top business school. Joseph, in essence, has an internship with Potiphar—the Egyptian official he assists.

So Joseph, the one who dreams of others bowing to him, was forced into service in a foreign land. The irony of leadership is that it's not about being in charge but really about serving. Joseph undergoes real-time training, first as a slave and then as a trusted assistant. And, in the midst of his circumstances, his character emerges. Yes, Joseph was destined for greatness—and it showed even at an early age. He learned from Potiphar; he observed Potiphar; he humbly and faithfully served Potiphar. And, more important, Joseph didn't forget about God, even if he may have felt like God had forgotten about him and allowed him to be a slave rather than the great leader he dreamed about. A true leader shows integrity, especially when it is dark and life doesn't add up to our expectations.

Even in Egypt, while Joseph was away from his beloved father and jealous brothers, God was with him and caused him to have success, even as he was in service to Potiphar (Genesis 39:2). And with his success came promotion. Joseph didn't have to lobby for a better role in Potiphar's regime—his work and the favor of God stimulated his promotion. To be promoted, the successful leader Joseph didn't have to jockey for position and share his dream of others serving him. When we are promoted simply because we have done what we should be doing, we don't have to take credit for it and we can more clearly see how God is working on our behalf. When we are promoted, we recognize God's favor in setting up the promotion as well as in giving us the gifts and skills to operate in excellence. And, if it is God who places us in the right place at the right time, how can we boast?


On Sale
Jan 3, 2017
Page Count
160 pages

Katara Washington Patton

About the Author

Katara Washington Patton has written and edited Christian books for children, teens, and adults and created supplemental materials for books by T.D. Jakes, Beth Moore, and Joyce Meyer. She served as general editor and writer of Aspire: The New Women of Color Study Bible. She holds a M.Div. from Garrett-Evangelical Theological Seminary.

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