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The Second-in-Charge: Are you a Haman or a Joseph?

Sutton Turner » Scripture Biblical People Church Leadership Coaching Executive Pastor

Whether you are a COO, a vice president, or an executive pastor, a second-in-charge by definition serves the leader of an organization.

More than an executive assistant, the second-in-charge (2IC) acts on the leader’s behalf, complements the leader’s weaknesses, and furthers the organization’s mission.

The Old Testament 2ICs—Haman, the Agagite under the Persian king Xerxes (Est. 3–9), and Joseph, favored son of Jacob (Gen. 30–50)—offer two extreme case studies in the role of the second-in-charge.

Haman: In it for the title


Haman takes advantage of opportunity to further his own agenda

He convinces his weak boss, Xerxes, to allow the killing of all the Jews in Persia (Est. 3:8–11) while lining his own pockets with their plunder.

Haman assumes it’s all about him

When Xerxes asks for advice on how to honor an unnamed man, Haman assumes he’s the one who is to be honored (Est. 6:6).

Haman promotes himself and his own interests before the king and the kingdom

Haman uses his position to overpower his generational enemies (Est. 3:8–11; 6:4) and brags about all that King Xerxes has done for him (Est. 5:11).

Haman wants to be king

Haman wants not only to be honored but to wear a robe worn by the king, ride a horse ridden by the king, and be crowned. Haman wants more than to serve the king—he wants to be the king (Est. 6:7–8).

Haman demands honor

That Haman has been given Xerxes’ signet ring and the accompanying power to make decisions on Xerxes behalf is not enough. He wants to parade through the city with those before him proclaiming that honor be shown to him (Est. 6:11).

Haman’s disloyalty breeds disloyalty

His family and friends witness his disloyalty to Xerxes and turn on him when the chips are down (Est. 5:14; 6:14).

Joseph: In it to serve


Joseph takes advantage of opportunity to further God’s agenda

When given the opportunity to take credit, Joseph gives credit to God (Gen. 41:17, 25, 28, 32).

Joseph demonstrates that it’s all about the kingdom

Rather than assert himself in leadership, Joseph offers a plan to rescue the kingdom. That the organization thrives is more important to Joseph than his position in it (Gen. 41:33–36).

Joseph promotes the king and the king’s interests

Joseph stewards the resources of Egypt under Pharaoh’s authority and not for his own personal benefit (Gen. 41:53–57; 47:13–25).

Joseph is reluctant to even be second-in-charge

When Joseph is interpreting Pharaoh’s dream for him, he recommends the Pharaoh appoint “a discerning and wise man” to oversee Egypt—never intending or implying that man should be himself (Gen. 41:33).

Joseph is bestowed honor based on his discernment

After hearing this recommendation, Pharaoh decides that, if Joseph is wise enough to know that is the type of ruler needed to oversee Egypt, then Joseph is wise enough to be that man, and so Pharaoh bestows the high position to Joseph right there (Gen. 41:39–41).

Joseph’s loyalty breeds loyalty

Because Joseph serves his leader loyally, he receives loyalty. The king trusts him completely (Gen. 41:55), blesses his family upon their arrival in Egypt (Gen. 45:16–20), and releases Joseph to return temporarily to Canaan (Gen. 50:5–6).

What are you in it for?

Are you a Haman or a Joseph? Are you a 2IC in order to further your own interests or the organization’s? Do you assume it’s all about you or the kingdom? Do you promote yourself or your leader and your organization? Do you want to lead the organization? Do you demand honor? Are you loyal to your leader?

Ultimately, the truest second-in-charge cares more about the health of the organization than about his or her own role in it. The godly second-in-charge models the servant leader, Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve (Mark 10:45).


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