Leadership or Solo-Mission ­ Article ­ BINA

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Leadership or Solo-Mission

Leadership or Solo-Mission

by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton

by Rabbi Yaacov Chaiton


My daughter recently attended the annual leadership conference for High school students. One of the speakers was Jessica Watson, the teenager who sailed unassisted around the world. Don't get me wrong - I think a solo-circumnavigation is an amazing achievement but I'm just wondering if she is the kind of person who should be lecturing our children on leadership?


The greatest Jewish leader of all time has to be Moses. This is the man who brought the ten plagues upon Egypt, gained us our freedom after 210 years of slavery, gave us the Torah, provided for our smallest needs in the desert and brought us to the threshold of the Holy Land. The Jewish people were not easy customers. Throughout the 40 years in the desert we were constantly complaining. We complained that we were hungry and we rebelled against his leadership, demanding that we be allowed to return to Egypt. But the biggest slap in the face that we ever gave Moses must have been when just a few days after receiving the Torah, with Moses still on the mountain; we took the opportunity to make a new god for ourselves - the golden calf. When G-d informs Moses that He intends on wiping the Jewish people off the face of the earth Moses begs G-d to forgive His people threatening - "If You decide not to forgive them, please erase me from the book that You wrote!"

For Moses, the Torah was everything. The Torah was his entire life, his passion, his legacy - to the point that until today we refer to the Torah as "the five books of Moses". Yet, he was willing to give it all up. He was willing to have his name erased from the front cover of the all -time bestseller; he would die an unknown man. And for who? For an ungrateful lot who had rebelled against him from day one and would continue to do so for years to come. But he risked it all because Moses was not on a solo-mission. He was committed to his people - a true leader.

Moses was a man who was not interested in his own legacy. He was interested in his people. This is the man about whom it is written "He was more humble than any other man on the face of the earth". While most people would vie for the position that Moses had, when he was first asked by G-d to be the one to lead the Jewish nation, his response was "surely you can find a better candidate". When Yisro, a former idolater who had just embraced Judaism came and started advising Moses on how to set up a better system of judging the people, Moses accepted his advice and restructured the entire Jewish court system. While others in Moses' shoes may have said something to the effect of, "Who are you to start telling me how to run the nation? Don't you think I have more experience than you? ", Moses, the most humble man was willing to learn from anyone.

Miss Watson is most definitely a most courageous and gutsy individual. But she is by no means a leader. Her endeavour was not about uplifting others, it was not even about raising awareness for some noble cause. It was a self-service with her motivation being for her own name to be recorded in the annals of history. Unlike Moses who was willing to take advice from others more amateur than himself, Miss Watson set out on her singly mission against the advice of others more professional than herself. The fulfillment of a dream is commendable, the feat Jessica Watson accomplished was courageous, BUT in its very essence it was a solo mission, the antithesis of even the most basic form of leadership. 

Moses never portrayed his super-human powers or incredible feats to prove that he was a leader, he didn't even have his own website, blog and book to promote himself. Moses was intrinsically a leader and actions done for self-promotion have nothing to do with leadership. Leadership is about being there for others, not about sailing out on a solo-mission.

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