Passover: Profiles in Leadership, are you a Moses or a Pharaoh to the People you Lead?

Here in Israel, the Passover holiday is upon us.

Passover is the holiday that marks the formal constitution of the Jewish nation, which was made possible by virtue of freedom from slavery. In other words, it’s a time that marks the special occasion of many individuals becoming one united entity.

But what created this unity? What forces formed it? And most relevantly…is there a lesson in it for the modern workforce?

When you look past traditional explanations there is one factor that stands out as definitive of this great narrative, and that is Leadership.

A Tale of Two Leaders

The primary drivers of the story are Moses and Pharaoh. What’s really interesting about these two personalities is that even though they come from the same place and are raised in the same home they grow up to become two very different kinds of leaders.

But what is it that makes them so different?

Why is This Leader Different than the Other Leader?

Ruler vs. Leader

Pharaoh leads from authority. Actually, he doesn’t so much lead you as much as he rules you. His leadership style is defined by his very position of authority. In other words, he is the king because he is the king. However, as an individual he isn’t at all unique. Pharaoh is one link in a great chain of leaders his people have experienced over time; he’s neither the first, nor the last. He isn’t where he is because of any special skills or abilities, there are probably many people better suited for his job. Rather, he owes his position to blind fortune. As if to justify this reality, he seems to deliberately avoid savvy when encountering a challenge, opting instead for cruel punitive force. Worst of all, he breaks his word with impunity. Ultimately, he is petty with his subordinates and lays waste to their morale with capricious egocentric policies.

Moses leads from vision. Being raised in the house of Pharaoh has not made Moses hard hearted. In fact, he’s a man of conscience who takes on the mantle of leadership under protest. Practically, he was compelled to do so. If he didn’t do it, no one else was going to. Although he does not have the luxury of a precedent to instruct him, he guides people with a keen sense of insight that springs from a strong commitment to ethics. At every stage his actions cut a path for others to follow behind him. Under his guidance, those that do follow him grow into positions of leadership, which he is wise enough to share with them. Moses has courage, seeks counsel from others and innovates when he encounters obstacles. When his capacity to lead is diminished he knows when to hand the reins over to someone better suited for the job. Ultimately, he is a skillful visionary who is able to grow his organization, enrich its people and ensure that it will succeed beyond his tenure.

What type of leader are you?

You might be a Pharaoh if…

  • …you refuse to take advice from others…
  • …you consider every challenge a threat…
  • …you bully your people into following your instructions…
  • …you don’t seek advice from others…
  • you can’t admit it when you’re wrong

Most of all…

…if you refuse to keep to your word and are often punitive, then you are definitely a Pharaoh.

How to change

Some people adopt the Pharaoh profile because they simply haven’t figured out how to lead. If you’ve found yourself in a position of authority that you may be under qualified for, or feel insecure about holding then it can be tempting to rule if you haven’t figured out how to lead. No doubt, leading is harder. It requires vision and an ability to create room for others to join you of their own free will.

You can become more of a Moses by…

  • …developing a plan for short term and long term goals…
  • …allowing others to shine…
  • knowing when you’re wrong
  • …acknowledging your limitations, and working on them…
  • …developing a relationship with an experienced mentor…

…and perhaps most of all, by taking ownership of your obligation to the growth of the people you manage!!!

If you have the capacity to make the change from a Pharaoh to Moses then you too will be able to free the people who depend on you for leadership from career slavery, while simultaneously expanding your own prospects of long term success and perhaps, adoration.

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