“Leaders become great, not because of their power, but because of their ability to empower others.” – John Maxwell.
There are two types of leaders. Leaders of power, who lead by force; and leaders of empowerment, who lead by influence.
The difference between the two is striking:
“Leaders of power” seek to gain control over people and their territories. “Leaders of empowerment” aim to let go of their control, by sharing all that they have with others – from their wisdom to their skills to their possessions.
Judaism has not always looked at “leaders of power” favorably. Even the appointment of kings, leaders of power, is frowned upon in our holy Bible.
Conversely, Judaism calls for and celebrates “leaders of empowerment.” Our history is replete with such shining examples who are praised and admired until this very day. Abraham empowered the world with monotheism. Moses empowered a nation with freedom. Queen Esther empowered her people with her courageous stance against tyranny. And the list goes on.
Leaders of empowerment are oftentimes power-less. They have no governments and armies. They have no spy agencies and police forces. Yet, they possess a voice of truth, a heart of love, and a soul on fire. And while yesteryear’s leaders of power have long disappeared into the dustbin of history, our leaders of empowerment continue to influence and inspire us all, until this very day.
In the past few weeks, a clear juxtaposition between these two models of leadership has emerged.
On the one hand, we have witnessed an army led by a “leader of power” who invaded a neighboring country, wreaking death and destruction.
On the other hand, we have also witnessed the rise of a fearless “leader of empowerment”, a president, the descendant of holocaust survivors, who has inspired his people, and millions worldwide, with an indefatigable spirit of resilience and defiance.
We pray and hope that our leaders of empowerment will triumph over the leaders of power, and that peace will be restored swiftly. But our response must be more personal. We too must step up to the plate and become leaders of empowerment.
Where there is evil and darkness, we must create goodness and light. When innocent people are confronted with forces of destruction, we must respond mightily and assist them with forces of construction and do all that we can to help them rebuild their lives – from assisting their rescue, to helping them monetarily, to strengthening their spirits with words of prayer and acts of support.
This is a quiet heroism – there are no flamboyant shows, no dramatic gestures that capture attention. I am not so naïve as to believe that good deeds alone will stop this mayhem. But we can, and must, shape the world — the world in which we live — by our actions.
Let us become leaders of empowerment. Let us leave our marks on this world for good. Let us “choose life” and fill our globe with actions of goodness and deeds of kindness.
We will then undoubtedly usher in a new era of peace and redemption, where “our leaders of empowerment will be restored as in days of old” (Isaiah 1:26), and “hearts of stone will be replaced by hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26).
May it happen speedily. Amen.