NLE Resources invites rabbis and educators from around the world to contribute guest posts. we have the fortune of presenting the second of five new blogs from Rabbi Naphtali Hoff. You can read the first post here. Rabbi Naphtali Hoff, M.Ed., is President of Impactful Coaching and Consulting, which provides coaching, consulting and professional development services to schools and other non-profit organizations. He is an accomplished educator and administrator and sought after lecturer with over fifteen years of experience in the field. Rabbi Hoff holds two Master’s degrees in education and is a doctoral student in human and organizational psychology, which examines successful individual or organizational change and development. More about Rabbi Hoff can be found on his website, ImpactfulCoaching.com.
In our last post, we analyzed Moshe’s initial response to Hashem’s directive. He has been told to descend immediately from the mountain as “his” people had grievously sinned. Following a brief prayer designed to avert immediate disaster, Moshe set out to reframe the issue to make it, so to speak, G-d’s problem more so than his own.
Moshe made three points. First, he argued that the people were far more G-d’s than they were his; it was He who needed to take responsibility for their welfare and bring them back along the path of repentance. He also questioned G-d’s decision in terms of how it would reflect upon Him from the vantage point of the Egyptians. Lastly, he “reminded” G-d of His promises to the forefathers and how this decision would impact those vows.
By restating the issues in different terms, Moshe demonstrated a number of core leadership qualities that we can all learn from. (Author’s disclaimer: The following lessons may appear incomprehensible as they may appear to suggest that Moshe somehow “outdueled” G-d. Nothing could be further from the truth. The main idea in this post is that Moshe took advantage of the opportunity that G-d presented to him to make good of a difficult situation. In this context, Moshe stopped at nothing, including arguing with G-d Himself, in order to advocate for his people and gain their atonement.)
Take a closer look
Throughout the entire dialogue with G-d, Moshe never accepted matters as they had been presented. This is most remarkable. As a society, we tend to readily accept positions presented by our politicians, members of the media, etc. In this case, Moshe heard firsthand from G-d Himself, the absolute source of truth, about what had occurred and what the necessary recourse was. Still, he analyzed the matter independently, arrived at a different conclusion, and was prepared to share it with his Master, despite G-d’s obvious wrath.
Oftentimes as leaders we are presented with a set of “facts.” This information may relate to one of our coworkers and his alleged deficiencies or failures. It may speak to negative ways in which our organization is perceived and the “necessary” steps to remedy the situation. Our inclination may be to fully accept such feedback, particularly when it comes from a credible source or a superior. Such acceptance may ultimately be appropriate, though not before we first analyze the situation on our own and attempt to determine where the truth really lies and how best to respond. We must also be willing to suggest alternative conclusions and approaches, even when such responses may not please the one who first brought the problem to us.
Own the problem
By calling the people “G-d’s”, Moshe broadened the circle of ownership and included his Maker as the one who was primarily responsible for a solution. While it would be most inappropriate to suggest that G-d was attempting to divest Himself of the issue, it is clear that He was initially pushing Moshe to take ownership of the situation. Moshe, as it were, placed the onus back on G-d, suggesting that He must join in finding a solution, and not simply start from scratch.
Oftentimes, leaders are presented problems that they alone are expected to resolve. Effective leaders understand that most problems, particularly ones that involve others, cannot be solved independently. They also know when and how to bring the problems back to the person who first approached them, and engage them in the process of working towards meaningful solutions, rather than simply presenting the problem and walking away.
In our next post, we will discuss other aspects of Moshe’s response, including reminding G-d of His moral responsibility to the avos, as well as his intense desire to advocate for his people, even when he was keenly aware of their significant failings.