Parashat Vayelekh

Quality Leaders

Moses and Joshua possessed leadership characteristics that we continue to look for in our leaders today.

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A good leader must know this own mind; he must be able to stand up for his views; and he also must be capable of changing his mind and of freeing himself from preconceived ideas. He must not be the type who declares: My mind is made up--don't confuse me with facts" (Pinchas H. Peli, Torah Today p. 186). Joshua, unlike Moses, who was punished for striking the rock in anger, was thoughtful and slow to act. Perhaps this is why God felt he possessed the traits needed to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land.

Rashi's comments about Joshua ring true, especially in today's politically charged environment about Israel where peoples' views differ greatly. A good leader must keep an open mind and be open to greater knowledge in order to help him or her reach a decision. A good leader must interact with the community and do what is best on the people's behalf--even if it's not always a "popular decision." A good leader may know that the tasks that lie ahead may not be easy but takes charge anyway because they are resolute in their purpose. God was with Joshua, as I believe God is with all leaders who are striving to do good.

Some synonyms for leadership are guardianship, guidance, stewardship, governorship and command. These words may define Moses and Joshua, but do they define our leaders today? Should we hold our present day leaders to the same standards we did these leaders of the past? The prominent figures in the Torah can serve as role models for today's leaders. It's important to choose our leaders wisely in hopes that they may resemble the leaders whose guidance has brought us to where we are today.

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Vicki Compter Lefkowitz

Vicki Compter Lefkowitz is the director of capital gifts and special initiatives at UJA-Federation of New York.