Passover Provides Lessons on Leadership

041114_demattos_joeMy oldest son,who is 8, recently joined with friends to lead a Rosh Chodesh service. Of course I was proud of them all, and they got me thinking about the new beginning that comes with the new moon and of the seminal Jewish new beginning we celebrate at Pesach.

I also began thinking of the Four Questions as they apply to leadership in our lives as Jews, and about how we led yesterday, how we lead today and how we plan to lead tomorrow.

An Internet search on leadership and Passover revealed an piece written by Samuel Bacharach, co-founder of the Bacharach Leadership Group. Bacharach lists the five leadership lessons of our Passover Seder: talk on the same level; remember what you all have in common; do not let the strongest dominate; do not rush; and welcome everyone. All valuable insights worth remembering and applying.

But again, with regard to my oldest son and his friends, I continue to wonder how Pesach could provide clues regarding the attributes of effective leadership, today and tomorrow.

Perhaps the first and most important of these attributes comes from all that is intertwined within the First Question: Liberation is powerful, individual freedom is arguably the chief universal value, the past must be actively remembered, the present must be viewed as a time for thoughtful and urgent action, and the future must not be taken for granted.

And while in celebrating Pesach we remember, give thanks and celebrate the seminal moment in the history of our people, my aim at our Seder table this year and my hope for the future Seder tables of my boys and their friends is that we all remember that the story of Passover is one of individual and collective action.

Some of those individual characters and stories: Miriam protected Moses; Moses himself evolved and grew into his leadership and his faith; Aaron led in ways that were difficult for Moses; and Joshua, of course, apprenticed and continued the quest to the Promised Land.

Perhaps we can find within the stories and actions of Miriam, Moses, Aaron and Joshua some clues on the universal attributes of leadership:

Leaders have vision and take action. Leaders recognize that leadership and followership go hand-in-hand. Leaders recognize their weaknesses and co-lead with others. Leaders study. Leaders listen. Leaders build team. Leaders are not perfect. Leaders evolve. Leaders adapt. Leaders are driven by values.

Among the most inspiring Jewish leaders is Shoshana S. Cardin.

At a recent ACHARAI event, Cardin said, “Leaders recognize the urgent need for understanding, vision and action. Good leaders are also good followers.”

So during Pesach, I will recall the leadership lessons of our most critical liberation 3,000 years ago. But, more importantly, my mind and heart will focus on how to build on that narrative with right action today.

Joseph DeMattos is 1st vice president at Har Sinai Congregation. He is the CEO of the Health Facilities Association of Maryland and owner of the Triple Latte Leadership consulting agency.

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