Andy Stanley introduced a concept he called the Pharaoh Principle at Leadercast 2019 this month. The idea is that leaders should assign a project to the person who is most passionate about it, regardless of where that person sits on the organizational chart.
Stanley coined the idea from the story of Joseph in the Bible. Joseph, who had served time in jail, was asked to interpret a dream for Pharaoh, the leader of Egypt. Joseph shared that the dream meant that a famine was coming, so Pharaoh should prepare by storing up grain and appointing someone to oversee rationing food. On the spot, without knowing much about him but clearly seeing his passion and belief in the idea, Pharaoh selected Joseph for the job.
“An org chart is necessary but can get in the way when you’re trying to get things done,” Stanley said. He advocates for relying on the passions and natural strengths of team members rather than their job titles to make assignments.
“The right person in the wrong place feels like the wrong person. Put people where they can make their greatest contribution to the organization.”
Stanley’s comments came at the annual Leadercast in Duluth, Georgia. It is an all-day event featuring multiple inspiration speeches from established leaders across myriad industries. Stanley is a frequent speaker at Leadercast.
Stanley says this idea should be applied not only to working with current teams, but also to hiring decisions. He encourages leaders to seek candidates who are performance-oriented.
“It’s easier to educate a ‘doer’ than to activate a thinker,” Stanley says. He suggests asking candidates for specific examples of ideas they initiated and then executed to gauge how intrinsically motivated they are.
In order for teams to stay healthy and continue producing at a healthy rate, leaders should take a step back and evaluate if those they lead are serving in roles that allow them to engage primarily in work that aligns with their natural bents.