When we talk about leadership, we tend to bring to mind the image of people of great public or private reputation, with decision-making power and many people under their control. However, when we talk about Saint Joseph, husband of the Virgin Mary, it seems that there is no obvious association between his person and the concept of leadership.

Was St. Joseph a leader dedicated to radical service and can he be considered a model for today’s leaders? Along these lines we will try to clarify if this is feasible. To do this, it is necessary to remember some features of Saint Joseph’s personality and his performance in the history of the Holy Family of Nazareth.

Descendant of a king

First of all, we must remember that Joseph is a descendant of the lineage of King David, from whom it is announced in the Old Testament that the Savior would be born. Therefore, from all eternity our beloved Joseph had been assigned a central role in the history of salvation. This raises the recurring question about whether a leader is born as such or is made.

He makes himself available without hesitation

In the New Testament he appears as Virgin Mary’s husband, who is disappointed upon learning that She is pregnant without having lived together. What does he do? He decides to disown her privately. That is to say, he assumes an attitude of dignity and height that not everyone is capable of having. Isn’t this personal quality of Joseph a trait that we all demand from good leaders?

Once the Angel of the Lord makes clear to him the origin of the child who will be born to his wife, he puts himself at the disposal of God without hesitation, taking Mary to live with him and assuming the adoptive paternity of Jesus. In other words, he recognizes God’s loving will, gives his own FIAT to it and assumes it with all the consequences it implies. In our religious sphere, a fundamental condition for anyone who wants to be a leader is the ability to listen to God, discern his will and adhere to it without hesitation.

Living for an ideal

From then on, he will take care of the Holy Family and will be fully at its disposal. This means that he will make service to life an essential part of his vocation (we Schoenstatters would say ‘of his personal ideal’). He will exercise his role as provider and protector of the family, as well as the fatherhood of Jesus, with the enormous responsibility of educating the Savior himself. It is in the performance of these tasks that other features shine which we would like to emphasize:

The temperance of Saint Joseph. This is already shown in face of the difficulty raised by the news of Mary’s pregnancy, it is consolidated during the escape to Egypt and is decisively tested in the virginal relationship with his wife, a condition that demands magnanimity and great self-control from him.

Silent helpfulness

In his work as a carpenter, in his family life and in his relationship with his environment, Joseph gives himself to others without fuss and without big speeches. How much we criticize leaders who show what they do with expensive advertising campaigns and how much we value those who serve in silence!

Humility is another of the traits that we highlight in him. The Lord has asked him to believe in the action of the Spirit on his wife and he does so without asking or demanding rewards or setting conditions. He could have taken advantage of what happened, asking God for compensation, but he opts for a humble attitude before God, recognizing his reality as it is and, from that, putting himself at the disposal of his will. It sometimes seems that humility is opposed to leadership, however one of the features that impresses in undisputed leaders such as Mother Teresa of Calcutta or Mahatma Gandhi is precisely humility.

A just man

Joseph is a just man, according to the concept of Holy Scripture. This relates to filiality before God and fidelity to his commandments, as well as the ability to distinguish between good and evil and – therefore – to be right in one’s actions. Probably one of the attributes that is most demanded of leaders today is precisely this, because it requires a certain degree of objectivity so as not to adjust the great truths to their particular interests.

It is because of all these characteristics that Saint Joseph became a person capable of faithfully doing God’s will, of fully carrying out his mission in the world and of being an essential part of the greatest event in the history of humanity, which is the salvation that Jesus Christ brings us.

A model for me

For this reason, we dare to state without a doubt that Saint Joseph is a valid leadership model for these times, in which society demands from its leaders a depth of life, temperance, principles, consistency with them, simplicity and humility, justice and unconditional dedication to the mission that has been given to them.

Finally, we cannot fail to mention a modern Joseph, who embodied many of the virtues of Saint Joseph: Father Joseph Kentenich. In him we can discover how traits of Saint Joseph can be lived amid the current time, with all its upheavals, contradictions and challenges.

Saint Joseph, implore for our leaders the grace to live radical service leadership!