Sharing ideas on Education, Leadership and Life

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Leadership Essentials- Blog post #3


Today whether it is the global conflict, domestic issues or just being willing to think about and look at education differently we need leadership. I wouldn’t say that we face all of these issues because we lack leadership but I would say that without strong leadership I have little hope in seeing any significant change.  The torah portions that Jews have read over the last few weeks, and will continue to read in the coming weeks talk about the end of Moses’s life and his appointing Joshua as his successor. One of mentors when it comes to true leadership is Lord Rabbi Jonathan Sacks.
I would like to share some of his thoughts with you.

Note: There are many other essential qualities of leadership but these are the three that the Torah singles out in these portions dealing with the transfer of power from Moses to Joshua


“In looking for a successor Moses is told to “Appoint over them a leader who will bear with each person according to his individual character.
Maimonides in The Guide for the Perplexed says that this is a basic feature of the human condition. Homo sapiens is the most diverse of all life forms. Therefore co-operation is essential – because we are different, others are strong where we are weak and vice versa – but it is also difficult, because we respond to challenges in different ways. That is what makes leadership necessary, but also demanding:
This great variety and the necessity of social life are essential elements in man's nature. But the well-being of society demands that there should be a leader able to regulate the actions of man; he must complete every shortcoming, remove every excess, and prescribe for the conduct of all, so that the natural variety should be counterbalanced by the uniformity of legislation, and the order of society be well established.
Leaders respect differences but, like the conductor of an orchestra, integrate them, ensuring that the many different instruments play their part in harmony with the rest. True leaders do not seek to impose uniformity. They honour diversity.”

In education especially we are faced with more diversity than ever before and I believe our educational leaders need to embrace that diversity and creativity environments so that all children form whatever background can succeed.
We also need to remove the silos and work together to solve any problem we all need to learn how to work together and collaborate and that skill of collaboration is key to our students success. I just a quote recently that more and more employers are finding that one’s GPA has little to do with ones ultimate success and it the more intangible type skills like collaboration creativity innovation and a like that are more important.

The next set of traits that were important was that of strength and humility.   
On this Rabbi Sacks the following:
“Note the two characteristics, seemingly opposed – great and humble – both of which Moses had in high degree (me’od, “very”). This is the combination of attributes Rabbi Yohanan attributed to God himself: “Wherever you find God’s greatness, there you find his humility.”
 Here is one of his prooftexts: “For the Lord your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger residing among you, giving them food and clothing” (Deut. 10: 17-18).

ish in the context of leadership is not a male but rather, someone who is a mensch, a person whose greatness is lightly worn, who cares about the people others often ignore, “the fatherless, the widow and the stranger,” who spends as much time with the people at the margins of society as with the elites, who is courteous to everyone equally and who receives respect because he or she gives respect.”   

The last idea of leadership Rabbi Sacks refers to as timing and pace.

“The Torah is hinting here at one of the most challenging aspects of leadership, namely timing and pace. The first phrase is simple: “who will go out before them and come in before them.” This means that a leader must lead from the front. He cannot be like the apocryphal remark of one British politician: “Of course I follow the party. After all, I am their leader.”

It is the second phrase that is vital: “who will lead them out and bring them in.” This means: a leader must lead from the front, but he or she must not be so far out in front that when they turn around, they find that no one is following. Pace is of the essence. Sometimes a leader can go too fast. That is when tragedies occur.

Respect for diversity, care for the lowly and powerless as well as the powerful and great, and a willingness to go no faster than people can bear: these are three essential attributes of a leader, as Moses knew from experience, and as Joshua learned through long apprenticeship to the great man himself. 

I think many of us want solutions yesterday and we live in a what have you done for me lately world. But our world, communities, and schools are made up of very diverse groups from very different socio- economic backgrounds and everyone at times seems to be in a different place and moving at his /her own pace. (Just as note it makes so much more sense to me now why pace is such an important component of differentiation. These as the Torah and Rabbi Sacks point out are the essential qualities of leadership for our diverse society.     

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