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Becoming a Better Leader with Moses as a Guide

Published October 07, 2019 by Dr Arthur Wolak

Around the world, recent and upcoming elections and new party leadership - whether in Canada, the UK, US, Israel, among other countries - provide a public and revealing glimpse of the diverse leadership approaches of politicians. Canada saw Justin Trudeau involved in the SNC-Lavalin affair, a scandal of alleged interference by the prime minister's office, the UK has witnessed Boris Johnson's vigorous pursuit of Brexit, and the US is hearing Democrats talk about impeaching Donald Trump. Israel watches as Benjamin Netanyahu - the country's longest serving Israeli prime minister - tries to form a government for the second time this year.

CEO leadership style also often makes news headlines, revealing the various diverse approaches to business leadership. We also hear how schools, hospitals, military units, and medium-sized businesses are run. Evidence of leadership - ranging from poor to excellent - is literally everywhere.

Becoming a good and effective leader is a challenge for many because it requires a broad spectrum of abilities. A leader's charismatic qualities may help a leader attract followers, but they do not guarantee quality leadership. There can be correlations, but charisma alone is seldom enough. There are no guarantees that inspiring people to follow one's vision will actually occur. Nonetheless, particular attributes, such as those ascribed to the biblical Moses, arguably provide an excellent foundation for demonstrating leadership skills.

Religion and Contemporary Management: Moses as a Model for Effective Leadership - now available in paperback (Anthem Press, 2019) - probes leadership traits that not only served Moses well but could help anyone thrust into a leadership role.

The Bible provides considerable detail about Moses' leadership abilities. He is depicted as innovative, original, empathetic, humble, tenacious, attentive, ethical, and relatively patient with a clear determined vision. Despite Moses' human flaws, such as his legendary poor public speaking abilities for which he relied upon his brother Aaron to help, Moses' leadership example is worth a careful study for any aspiring leader regardless of age or gender.

The greatest prophet in the Jewish tradition, Moses is also a respected figure in Christianity and Islam. Judaism, Christianity and Islam all regard Moses as a great leader. There is no denying Moses' influence on Jewish identity, group leadership and Western civilisation as a whole. While the Ten Commandments could be likened to God's mission statement to the Jewish people - and that Moses assumed the role of biblical CEO, of sorts, because he became a leader entrusted with transforming God's mission statement into a viable entity - Moses revealed unquestionable leadership talents.

While examining how Moses' traits and actions fit into different theories of leadership, Religion and Contemporary Management probes different types of leadership, considers how leadership and management differ, and assesses the pros and cons of charisma. Then the ways Moses displayed empathy, possessed humility, and became a visionary leader are discussed. In a section on "Modesty and Holiness" international real estate developers, (pre-US president) Donald Trump and Canadian Paul Reichmann of Olympia & York - perhaps best remembered for London's Canary Wharf redevelopment - are contrasted to reveal the significance of their different approaches and how the latter emulates Moses while the former does not, helping illustrate how diverse leadership styles work in practice.

Religion and Contemporary Management is written with lay readers in mind, because anyone who wishes to learn how to lead, and to learn what characteristics are beneficial for effective leadership, would do well to study the example of Moses. Becoming an effective leader is a challenging task, requiring many abilities and traits including humility, innovation, empathy, persistence, attentiveness, morality, and the ability to convey a clear vision. Hence, through the example of Moses and accompanying analysis from modern leadership theory, the book provides valuable insights on how an aspiring leader can improve his or her skills.

Dr Arthur Wolak is a Woolf Institute Alumnus with degrees in psychology, history, business, comparative management, and religious studies. He is the author of Religion and Contemporary Management (London: Anthem Press, 2016 and 2019) and The Development of Managerial Culture (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2014). He has published articles in The International Journal of Organizational Analysis and The Jewish Bible Quarterly, among other peer-reviewed journals. Dr Wolak is a member of the Board of Governors of Gratz College, the oldest Jewish independent and pluralistic college for Jewish Studies in North America. More on Arthur can be found here.

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