Leadership: Even Moses Needed Training

Gvanim group in session

As we approach the holiday of Shavuot, and after the holiday of Passover, I got to thinking about Moses and leadership.

In the annals of history, few figures stand as tall as Moses, revered for leading the Israelites out of Egypt. Yet, delving into his narrative reveals a profound truth: leadership is not an inherent quality but a skill that can be nurtured and refined.

From the outset, Moses did not see himself as a leader; it was God who identified him as such. At the burning bush, amid doubt and reluctance, Moses was called upon to lead his people to freedom. His initial hesitation stemmed from a lack of self-assurance, a reluctance to shoulder the immense responsibility that leadership demanded.

Yet, even in his uncertainty, Moses was not abandoned. God, recognizing Moses’s apprehension, provided the support and guidance he needed. When Moses expressed his fear of speaking, God appointed Aaron as his spokesperson, demonstrating a crucial aspect of effective leadership: recognizing and addressing individual weaknesses.

Moses’s journey was not devoid of challenges. His struggle with a speech impediment, symbolized by his fear of speaking, serves as a testament to the obstacles leaders often face. However, God did not leave Moses to navigate these challenges alone. Instead, He equipped him with the tools and resources necessary to overcome them.

Throughout his leadership, Moses received divine as well as human counsel and guidance. When faced with the burden of governance, he sought the advice of his father-in-law, Jethro, who imparted invaluable lessons in delegation and administration. This willingness to seek counsel from others exemplifies a fundamental aspect of effective leadership: humility and a willingness to learn from others.

Moses’s transformation from a hesitant and uncertain leader to a confident and capable one was not instantaneous. It was a journey marked by growth, learning, and resilience. He faced setbacks, moments of doubt, and even moments of failure. Yet, through it all, he persevered, guided by his unwavering commitment to his people.

The parallels between Moses’s journey and the challenges faced by leaders today are striking. Like Moses, many emerging leaders grapple with self-doubt, uncertainty, and specific hurdles that threaten to impede their progress. It is incumbent upon us, as community leaders, to recognize and address these hurdles, providing support and guidance to nurture the leaders of tomorrow.

At the Israel-American Council (IAC), we understand the importance of cultivating leadership within our community. Therefore, we formed our New Leadership department, which offers various programs and tools. One example is our Gvanim leadership program for Israeli-Americans, which mirrors Moses’s journey by addressing gaps in knowledge and understanding before equipping participants with the tools to lead effectively. By identifying and addressing specific hurdles, we are able to give participants the guidance and tools they need, such as understanding the communal landscape and assets, identifying their responsibilities in shaping the future of their communities, partnership building, storytelling, leading volunteers, and much more. This way, we empower individuals to become leaders who can better represent the diverse tapestry of American Jewry, which includes more than 8% Israeli-Americans. Throughout the year, we have been able to build upon our original leadership program and add a range of additional and follow-up opportunities for lifelong learning for our alumni community.

As we reflect on Moses’s journey, it is apparent that the Torah chose to show us a leader who is not a “know-it-all” type of leader. Moses exemplifies adaptive leadership throughout his journey, as he continued to grow as a leader, gained new insights and implemented them, managed change, frustrations, fears, and disagreements, and learned from and was guided by others. Let us create a constructive journey for the aspiring leaders among us. Let’s identify and address the hurdles that stand in the way of potential leaders within our community and give them the guidance and support they need to grow. By doing so, we can ensure that the legacy of leadership in the Jewish world continues to thrive for generations to come.

About the Author
Aya Shechter is the Chief Program Officer at the Israeli American Council (IAC). Aya is a dynamic advocate for the Israeli-American community, blending personal experiences with a rich professional background. Born in Israel and now based in the United States, she's a cornerstone of the Israeli-American diaspora. Aya, married to an Israeli-American and a mother of four, brings a deep understanding of both cultures to her work and writing. With expertise in law and Jewish studies, she's committed to strengthening the bond between Israel and the United States through meaningful dialogue and community engagement.
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