LEADERSHIP and Tea Party's

Several weeks ago, I was approached by someone who said he wanted to discuss with me the meaning of ‘leadership,’ and whether in fact we have any true leaders in the world today. It made me think, and I am still thinking, but here are some of the conclusions I have arrived at thus far.

Is a leader a person who runs things? No, that's a boss. And although every leader may in some sense be a boss, certainly not every boss is a leader. Is it someone with power? A man with a gun has power which invariably gives him control, but it doesn’t make him a leader. Authority would also be a misleading definition. A store supervisor has authority, but that’s not leadership either. The irreducible minimum definition of a leader is someone with followers, but that bare bones formulation prompts the question:

Why do some people - and not others - attract followers?

One theory suggests that, leadership is simply something you are born with. Either you have it or you don’t. Sociologist Max Weber called it ‘charisma.’ Another theory posits that it is more genetic than character. For example, if you are born strong, brave, wise and tall than you have what it takes to be a leader. If you lack sense, are weak and cowardly, then you are hardly likely to assume the role of leadership. Yet a third theory considers the set of circumstances surrounding man and how well he blends into the situation. This means that the French Revolution created Napoleon and intertribal Mongol wars gave rise to Genghis Khan.

Henry Ford said: "You can’t build a reputation on what you’re going to do." Leaders are more than mere visionaries who talk about their dreams. They act upon them and constantly demonstrate by way of example. They have more backbone than wishbone, Leaders are what leaders do. That's what separates leaders from managers. Leaders start things; managers keep things going. Leaders trigger and shape change. Managers keep disorder and change at bay. All too often politicians start out as global leaders (think Bush & Blair) then become more managers as they find themselves struggling to cope with the very chaos they sometimes create. One of the tests of leadership is the ability to recognize a problem before it becomes an emergency. The world in its current chaotic state reflects the obvious lack of leadership today.

When I trawl through Jewish history I come closer to a definition of leadership. The Jewish patriarch Abraham was someone who left his personal comfort zone and made it his life’s mission to impact other people. He wasn’t looking for accolades, recognition or even followers. These things emerged of their own, as they inevitably do with all true leaders. Moses initially refused the mantle of leadership, but ultimately found himself lifting the waning Jewish spirit and encouraging them along the road toward their destiny.

Leaders don't push, they pull. They don't enforce, they inspire.

Leaders lead, which implies a destination, someplace to be that isn't here. They attract followers by flashing a light ahead. That was Abraham and that was Moses.

A more contemporary example of leadership would be the Lubavitcher Rebbe, Rabbi Menachem M. Schneerson, of righteous memory - undeniably the one individual more than any other singularly responsible for stirring the conscience and spiritual awakening of the Jewish people in the post-Holocaust era. This time each year an army in excess of four thousand Rabbis assemble in New York for an annual conference. These Rabbis and their wives are known endearingly as shluchim or emissaries, as they represent the Rebbe in each of their individual communities around the globe sharing in the same mission statement of making a difference to the life of another Jew and transforming their slice of the world.

What is particularly noteworthy is that while demographers were calling for the demise of Lubavitch following the passing of the Rebbe sixteen years ago, the number of shluchim has nearly doubled in that time, because like Moses and Abraham before him, the legacy of true leaders is eternal as their life continues to inspire everlastingly.

A ‘Rebbe’ is described as a Jewish spiritual leader, especially of a Hasidic sect. They will invariably have Chassidim or followers, not because they go looking for them but precisely because others are invariably drawn to their light and example.

A leader is great not because of his power, but because of his ability to empower others.

Great leaders are like the best conductors - they reach beyond the notes to reach the magic in the players.

Not surprisingly, the Rebbe like Moses and Abraham also shied away from becoming leader for the better part of a year following the passing of his predecessor and father-in-law, Rabbi Joseph Isaac Schneerson OBM.

The quality of a leader is reflected in the standards they set for themselves. They are the ones who know the way, go the way and show the way. That is what is lacking and what we crave now more than ever in both our Jewish world and our wider universe.

Perhaps this is why, the age-old Jewish dream of Mashiach, has become so much more than a vision. It has become a very real yearning within the minds and hearts of all those who honestly desire an Abraham, a Moses, a Rebbe - real leadership for a better tomorrow.