Leadership Lessons From Joseph

By Mike Duke – BSF Board Member

The founder of Walmart, Sam Walton, once said “If you want a successful business, your people must feel that you are working for them — not that they are working for you.”

When I was working as “Chief Greeter,” or CEO, at Walmart, I was inspired by this mindset of servant leadership. It gave me the ideal opportunity to reflect on biblical models of leadership and I often used relevant Scriptures to describe specific leadership characteristics, even within a diverse, global organization such as Walmart.

This year in the Genesis study, I had the opportunity to reflect on servant leadership through the story of Joseph. Although he was not a perfect leader, we can learn from the leadership qualities that Joseph displayed throughout his life, from the beginning of his story in Canaan to the throne room in Egypt.

9 Lessons we learn from Joseph

Decide what Defines You

We all know the story of Joseph and the beautiful coat his father gave him. But we can even learn from this basic story that beautiful clothing does not make a great leader, and Joseph understood that. He had a close relationship with God, and much more strength and depth of leadership beyond his beautiful coat. So how do those we lead characterize us? In studying Joseph’s life, we see every day as an opportunity to choose what makes us memorable.

Make Peace With Adversity

In Genesis 37, we find Joseph in a ditch, or cistern. A wise business investor, Warren Buffett, once said, “When you find yourself in a ditch, stop digging.” This advice can apply to business, life and relationships. When Joseph found himself the cistern, he trusted God even through great adversity. Joseph did not fight his circumstances, but discovered God’s peace in each of these difficult situations. He came to realize that God uses adversity for good.

Welcome God’s Presence

In Chapter 39, Joseph’s boss, Potiphar, saw something in Joseph that was very special. He saw that the Lord was with him. Biblical leadership always shows the presence of the Lord, and the leader has complete trust in God. Can others see Him in us?

Expect Temptation and Be Prepared

People in leadership roles will often be tempted. Positions of power, authority and financial oversight can become sources of temptation. As Joseph gained leadership roles, he also faced intense temptation. He was certainly tempted aggressively by Potiphar’s wife. But before he was tempted, Joseph made a commitment to honor and integrity. In the throes of temptation, Joseph stood firm. Great leaders decide integrity cannot be compromised, and they make that commitment even before they face temptation.

Look For Opportunities to Lead

Joseph was certainly treated unfairly and was even sent to prison due to no fault of his own. But the Lord stayed with him and even provided leadership opportunities while in prison. From Joseph, we can learn how to make the best of difficult circumstances and even look for leadership opportunities that might be available in unlikely places. Whether we are at home raising children or at work leading a team, God values servant leadership in all circumstances. Through His eternal perspective, the greatest leaders among us are the Godliest.

Give Credit to Those Who Contribute

When others wanted to give credit and praise to Joseph, he turned it around to give all praise and glory to God. When interpreting dreams, he was clear that God’s skills, not his own, were on display. Great leaders embody humility, and they will not accept personal glory and praise. They tirelessly credit success to others that contributed to the accomplishments.

Place Your Trust in God’s Plan

In Genesis 41, we get a good understanding of Joseph’s trust in God’s plan. Joseph expects seven years of prosperity to be followed by seven years of famine, so he prepares for the upcoming difficulties. Joseph trusted God, and as a result, he received great wisdom in how to deal with the prosperity and how to prepare for the future.

Don’t Be Afraid to Show Emotion

In the final chapters of Joseph’s life, we read a detailed account of how he interacted with his brothers and his father. Faced with the family members who betrayed him, Joseph displayed compassion, forgiveness and love. These chapters are often emotional, showing one of the greatest leaders in Egypt weeping.

Some leaders have the mistaken impression that they should not show emotion, but they are so wrong. Strong leaders show they care about others, and sometimes that can mean grief. Display of emotion is a good, sincere characteristic because it shows a caring, loving leader.

Serve in All Circumstances

In the final chapters of Genesis, Joseph showed he loved his father and brothers, and was able to forgive. But going beyond forgiveness, Joseph proved his servant heart when he blessed and provided for his family. Great leaders care about every single person they lead, just as the shepherd cares about every single sheep in the flock.

Leading Where God Calls

Though we may not be called to lead a nation like Joseph, God calls all of us to lead in some way. Whether in business, BSF leadership, our local church, our community or leading our family, He provides the framework for serving effectively wherever we are called.

As we close our study of Genesis, we remember Joseph as an example of a leader who selflessly served. But in preparing our minds for Matthew, we look forward to Jesus, not as an example, but as the fulfillment of a servant leader.

Through Joseph’s example, we find practical leadership application. But through Christ’s sacrifice, we discover the power to put these steps into practice.

Mike Duke

BSF Board Member – Former WalMart Executive

Michael T. Duke has served on the BSF Board of Directors since 2014. Mike was an active class member for several years and his wife, Susan, has served as a Class Administrator for more than 20 years. Mike joined Walmart in 1995, and over his 19 years with the company led the logistics, distribution and administration divisions as well as Walmart U.S. In 2005, he was appointed to vice chairman with responsibility for Walmart International. Before joining Walmart, Mike had 23 years of experience in retailing with Federated Department Stores and May Department Stores. Mike is a member of the National Academy of Engineering and currently serves on the board of trustees of the Georgia Tech Foundation and Chick Fil A. He also serves as an operating executive for The Carlyle Group. Mike graduated from Georgia Tech with a bachelor’s degree in industrial engineering. He was awarded honorary doctorate degrees from Georgia Tech and the University of Arkansas. He and his wife, Susan, have two daughters, a son and five grandchildren.



  1. I wish to part of this school…how May I get to know more of this organization..please advice.

    • Hi Debasish! BSF is not really a “school” but a weekly Bible study! You can find a class near you at join.bsfinernational.org. Thank you!

  2. Very educative. God bless

  3. Will be very interested in Joseph’s leadership and spiritually discuss about it.

  4. Thanks for reminding me about this young but a great leader joseph ,,,I really learnt more than what I was looking for

  5. Mike, thank you for your leadership insight. Did you know A VP of International at Walmart who came from Target? He resigned his position to become an associate pastor in Branson (I think). Mr. Glass was the CEO at that time. He said he was always talking about Jesus in his travels so he decided to walk his talk. Ernie Schluter- St. Louis

  6. Thank you very much for reminding from Joseph’s leadership skill for us to keep in mind as we lead the small group to apply practically with prayers to glorify God . . *

  7. Share your vision/dream from God, even if your family is self-absorbed.
    Joseph get’s falsely accused by today’s hired Bible experts of being arrogant, as if he made up his dream. Clergy despise prophecies, even those that are straight out of scripture. They are turf protectors of clergyism rituals. They reject God’s instructions for “meeting together”. Heb. 10;24,25 They force the reverse – strict one way communication by one man. God will accomplish his purposes in his time.

  8. Thank you Mike for your insights on leadership. And your Godly perspectives on the characteristics of how that leadership should look. Caring about others is still the basis for our service to the Lord. And though it can be difficult the reward is worth it. Blessings to you, your wife and family.

    • Hallelujah

    • Excellent summary of Joseph’s leadership style. Very useful for all of us. Thank you Mike. We have the best example for leadership in Jesus and we all should strive every day to lead like Jesus.
      God bless you and family

  9. Thanks for sharing. I was truly blessed. May the blessings of the Lord rest upon you and your family.

  10. What an inspiration. Yes Joseph was a great leader with God’s wisdom. It’s great to hear about someone who had such a high position of CEO that shares and lives according to God’s word. It is great to know he serves on BSF’s board. I am moved by his progression from server to the one in charge. It’s a lot like Joseph’s life and beliefs. Thank you for sharing. I am grateful that I was led to BSF many years ago and have a desire to be a part of a group for many more years to come.

  11. In the past studies, my lessons from Joseph have been about forgiving. This time round I learnt so much about suffering & how to suffer well trusting God’ who is always present with me. He allows suffering for His purposes & to mature me. Great lessons from this round of Genesis.

  12. The Genesis study was one of the best. Mike’s succinct summary is great and inspiring. Great servants make the best leaders. My biggest take away from the Genesis study is that even when I can’t see it He is working, even when I can’t feel it He is working. Most of all He is working everything out for my good I just need to wait on the Lord. I look forward to the Matthew study.

  13. Very inspiring analysis on Joseph’s leadership skills.

    Indeed Joseph is one of my favourite characters in the Old Testament. He is an epitome of what God can do for those who serve Him with newness of heart. A forgiving heart, Joseph is a perfect suitor to Psalm 23:5 as one reflects on the dinner he gave his family, a family that betrayed him and sold him into slavery. The Lord set a table before him in the presence of his enemies! Amen.

  14. Thank you for the reminder of the leadership of Joseph in the study of Genesis. This servant leadership has been a great challenge and encouragement too. My prayer is that God will help me be the servant he wants me to be.

  15. Thank you for great reminder of the lessons in leadership in the life of Joseph. This study has been a great encouragement and challenge too. May the Lord help me to be a servant leader.

  16. This is great! I love it.

  17. Joseph’s story is a display of how God’s Sovereignty is being played out in the midst of human choices. He does what pleases Him and since He is just, righteous, holy, etc. I am certain that His plan is the best

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts from Joseph’s story…God bless you.

  18. Great indepth in Joseph leadership style. Application left for us to ff.

  19. Thank you Mike for your wise applications to leadership. I definitely have to stop digging when I’m in a ditch. Your observations are valuable.

  20. I enjoyed all that Genesis had to offer, In Joseph’s trials and error. Looking forward to Matthew study.

  21. Mike,
    What a great reminder of how God is constantly at work in our lives today as He was in Joseph’s life.
    A confirming circumstance in my own life to be used as a reset in how I approach the blessings He bestows on me each and every day…
    Thank you for your service and your leadership!

  22. Amen brother Mike! Joseph’s life is an example of how our God wants us to trust and obey Him.

  23. Thank you for sharing your God inspired wisdom.

  24. I loved the Genesis study, especially Joseph. Thank you for the great review and reminder of having a servant heart to glorify our Lord.

  25. Excellent blog and I found much encouragement from it. Thank you for sharing and serving our Lord faithfully.

    • Thank you Mike for sharing your Godly wisdom and reminding us of what it means to have a shepherds heart.

  26. Thank for reminding us of these gems in Genesis .


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