Monthly Archives: November 2014

Joseph Led Both Strategically and Tactically

There has been much ‘to do’ about the similarities and differences between leadership and management with the leader usually being more senior to the manager. Setting the strategy is often considered the job of the most senior leaders while implementing the tactics is for junior staff workers.  This one belief has resulted in massive ineffectiveness in accomplishing worthy outcomes.

Leadership experts Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan wrote an entire book around this issue because they saw it as a major business and leadership problem.

Here is the fundamental problem: people think of execution as the tactical side of business, something leaders delegate while they focus on the perceived “bigger” issues. This idea is completely wrong.  Execution is not just tactics—it is a discipline and a system.  It has to be built into a company’s strategy, its goals, and its culture.  And the leader of the organization must be deeply engaged in it.  He cannot delegate its substance. (Execution, p. 6)

Joseph suggested a strategic plan to Pharaoh in response to the dream of impending extreme famine following a time of abundance (Gen 41:33-36). Pharaoh was wise enough to realize that without someone skilled in execution the plan would never work.  Consider these ways that Joseph led both strategically and tactically in Genesis 41-50.

Strategy Tactics
Ensure food for people to survive the famine Gathering, storing, distributing food
Honor Pharaoh as supreme ruler Treat people with respect; respond to needs
Establish international credibility Sell food without harm to Egyptians
Bring spiritual blessing to Egypt Model godliness and sincerity
Ensure survival of Israel Sibling transformation; dwelling place


What is the result when a leader engages in the strategy process but delegates the tactics? Unless those to whom the strategy has been delegated are skilled at executing the tactics, the strategy will never be fully realized.  How can a leader wisely ensure that the strategy is accomplished?  Here are a few suggestions:

  • Engage those tasked to execute the strategy in the strategic thinking process.
  • Agree upon clear outcomes that are as measurable as possible.
  • Establish milestones for progress to be assessed and adjusted as needed.
  • Ensure that the resources needed to accomplish the outcomes are provided.
  • Provide the encouragement and prayer that will enable the satisfaction of success.

What is your practice as a leader in both strategy and tactics? How committed are you to provide the leadership needed to ensure that the tactics actually accomplish the strategy?  Where could you grow in your understanding and skill in these areas?  Your Vision, Mission, and Calling deserve your attention to execution of the tactics.


Next Blog: Impeccable stewardship.



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Joseph Understood What Is Known Today As “Systems Thinking”

A mother tries to understand why her son is acting aloof during dinner.  Could it have something to do with the disagreement he had with his father over the weekend or something with his schoolwork or perhaps the fact that he is a young teenager?  A supervisor cannot seem to connect with a staff after multiple attempts.  Could it be the discouragement from leading a less than successful conference or the recent physical exam that identified some health concerns or perhaps being away from home a lot the last couple of months?  The answer is likely YES and more!

Systems thinking is an approach to problem solving, by viewing “problems” as parts of an overall system rather than reacting to specific parts, outcomes, or events, and potentially contributing to unintended consequences.  If a leader concludes that a situation will get better when one area is “fixed,” he or she will likely be discouraged when finding out that one solution just heightens another deficiency.

God designed life to be interconnected.  We might not like mosquitos (at least I do not), but to eliminate them would leave predators without prey and plants without a pollinator.  One seemingly corrective action can open the proverbial can of worms!

When it comes to developing a healthy organizational culture where people can thrive, a leader must grasp something of the interconnected complexity of the parts.  What is or is not done in finance and communications and recruiting and execution of strategy (etc.) all relate to each other.  To focus on one part without realizing the connection to other parts is a common mistake that hinders the solving of most problems.

Joseph had plenty of time to think during his prison days about how parts contribute to the whole.  The realization of his youthful dreams was in jeopardy due to some of the choices he made with his family and choices thrust upon him as a slave then as a prisoner.  After being appointed Prime Minister of Egypt he had the wisdom to discern not just how to grow and store food during the seven years of plenty (when most people would have thought him crazy, like Noah talking about a flood), but how to distribute it, how to indenture servants in an honoring way, and how to relate to nearby nations who were suffering from the extreme famine.

Although the bulk of Genesis chapters 41-47 tell of God’s purposes of sustaining His chosen people, there are insights into the means He used of working through Joseph.  In 47:13-26 we observe five decisions to sustain health for the Egyptians (and Jacob’s family): financial, all hard currency was collected (14); property, all livestock was gathered (16); real estate, all land was purchased (20); distribution, all people co-located to cities (21); and indentureship, enabling people to sow and reap (23-24).  Joseph recognized the interconnected parts and organized the agricultural and delivery systems brilliantly.  His efforts were duly praised by the Egyptian people, “You have saved our lives!” (25).

How do we learn to see the systems at work in any given problem?  The arena of coaching has taught us to ask, “what else?” “and what else?”  Only from the discipline of digging deeper and not rushing off with the first or most natural solution can a leader see the multiplicity of interconnected parts that need leadership thinking and execution to reach a better place.  Otherwise, unintended consequences are sure to pop up.  Think systems.

Next Blog: Differentiating between strategic and tactical leading.







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