Posts Tagged With: Easter

Glory Days

He (Moses) said, “Show me Your glory.”

Exodus 33.18 (Shabbat Pesach)

As we are in the midst of our Passover (and Holy Week) celebrations, this Sabbath marks a special Torah reading, outside of the normal cycle of readings. We will return to Leviticus next week; this Sabbath marks a return to Exodus as we recall on the Sabbath of Passover the giving of the second set of Tablets of the Law, following the episode of the Golden Calf. After this horrific event, when Moses descended in a state of holiness from Mount Sinai, only to see his brother Aaron leading the people into apostasy, dancing around a graven, golden bull, Moses smashed the original tablets which God had personally engraved on stone tablets.

In the second giving of the Law, God instructed Moses to cut and write the 10 Commandments himself, perhaps as punishment for smashing the original Tablets. But before ascending Mount Sinai once again, Moses in his agitated state pleaded with God to show him some physical symbol of the Divine Presence, such as God’s face. To which God answered that no human could see God’s face and live. Yet, Moses still pined to see God’s glory, some showing of God’s presence.

When we read this verse in the Torah, one cannot help but think of the difference between ascribed and earned authority. Ascribed authority is given by virtue of position: a manager, rabbi or judge has ascribed authority, for example, by virtue of his or her position; it comes with the job. Earned authority, on the other hand, is not tied to position; it is given to a person by others by virtue of what one says and does. For example, in a hospital, a patient may be under the care of a doctor but it is the charge nurse who really knows the intimate status of that patient and administers care.

In the Exodus saga, neither God nor Moses started with either ascribed or earned authority; Egypt had plenty of gods and nobody, including the Israelites, knew who Moses was. It was only through the plagues and the death of Pharaoh and his army at the Sea of Reeds that the Israelites finally believed in God and in Moses.

But by the time of the Golden Calf, such earned authority had disappeared and Moses needed proof once again of God’s authority. Watching God’s back pass before him while standing in a cleft in the rock was to be the proof, the pep talk as it were, that Moses needed.

There are times when we as leaders need to show our earned authority. Hopefully they are few and far between but sometimes it is necessary. For example, when we adopt a collaborative approach to decision making, there are times when we are called upon to make a final decision – and it may go against the majority vote. Personnel decisions are another area that call for both earned and ascribed leadership; we do not hire, promote or terminate based upon the decisions of our group.

So when our people cry out, “Show us your glory!”, they are asking us to take the reins of leadership and show them the way. No matter how much we want to work alongside our co-workers, we must always remember that we also have to lead them; that is our primary job. Of course that involves listening and learning from them. But just as our success depends upon them, they depend upon us for their success as well. Let’s help them exceed their expectations.

Chag Pesach Sameach!

And Happy Easter, too!

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EXPERIENCE IT!

It shall be that when you come to the land that the Lord will give you as He has spoken, you shall observe this practice.  And when your children ask of you, “What is this practice?” You shall tell them, “It is a Pesach (Passover) offering to the Lord, who pasach (passed over) the houses of the children of Israel in Egypt when He took the Egyptians.  But He spared our homes.” And the Children of Israel bowed their heads and prostrated themselves.

–Exodus 12.25-27 (from the Torah portion read on the 1st morning of Passover)

Note: The Jewish festival of Pesach (Passover) begins this Monday evening.  This posting is in honor of the holy day.  The posting for the special Torah portion read on the Sabbath of Pesach will be published later this week.

One of my favorite television shows is Undercover Boss.  On this CBS-network show, a top-level executive creates a fake character and poses in disguise as a contestant on a fake reality show.  He or she then goes undercover in the company and works with real employees to learn about the inner workings of his or her own company.  At the end of the show, these employees get to meet the boss, find out what changes will be made as a result of their encounters and are almost always rewarded handsomely.  Usually, the rewards are life-changing and leave everyone in tears.  Since its inception, Undercover Boss has profiled companies as diverse as 7-11, Modell’s Sporting Goods and even Hooter’s!

The key element in each show is that the CEO or key executive at every company – even if it is the founder – often has little to no idea of what is actually happening inside the organization!  Now while an executive can be excused for not knowing about a cashier’s bad attitude at a franchise store five hundred miles from headquarters, it continually amazes me that these executives are unaware of outdated inventory control systems, inefficient cash registers or high turnover rates as regular company standards.  These executives have let themselves be blinded by balance sheets and bottom lines, all in the name of profits and shareholder demands.

The common denominator every episode is that the executives all promise to get back into the trenches on a more regular basis.  The executives will spend more time in the field and less time in meetings, for example.  They will implement worker-friendly policies, upgrade software, buy new equipment and often give pay raises or other benefits.  They realize through these experiences that the farther removed they are from the actual business of their companies – and from the lives of their employees (no small issue either) – the more their companies suffer.  And when they get their hands dirty, they and their companies, along with their employees, will thrive.

Which brings me back to our passage for Pesach.  When we as leaders observe the Passover ritual in its time and with proper ceremony, we are setting an example for our children.  This is the literal meaning of the text.  When our children ask us why are we doing this, our answer is that we are doing it for them, to instruct our children (and to remind ourselves) of the experience of leaving Egyptian bondage and of achieving freedom in the land that God promised to the Children of Israel.  We do it to get our hands dirty.  Without this ceremony, we would take our freedom for granted.

In terms of Biblical Leadership for the modern day, this message resonates strongly with us.  It’s a message hammered into the heads of the Undercover Bosses:  unless we as leaders get into the trenches and experience the daily lives of those we lead, we will never appreciate the work they do or the value they give to our organizations; neither would we realize the true value of our organizations – our workers.  In other words, our leadership is more than just words, charisma and attention to the bottom line; it is the building of relationships, the ability to understand if not adequately perform every job in the company and to compensate those who work for us to the best of our abilities so that we can attract and retain the very best.  So while I may not be qualified to use a forklift, I have to hire the best forklift driver available and be sure that he or she knows me personally and that I understand the requirements of that job.  That requires my occasional presence at the warehouse, putting on a hardhat and riding along for an hour.

So the next time we as leaders consider buying a new suit, think instead if a pair of blue jeans is a more appropriate purchase.  Would wearing a pair of jeans to work make us more effective leaders?  That is the message of Passover: is it more effective to experience the job than to observe it?

To those celebrating Pesach, may you celebrate in joy and freedom.  To those observing Holy Week and Easter, may you find a sense of blessing at this great season.  And to those whose beliefs lie elsewhere, may you find these words an inspiration to treat others as you yourself would want to be treated.

Rabbi Jordan Parr is a noted author, speaker and presenter.  He is the author of the forthcoming book Moses Is My Uncle: Lessons In Biblical Leadership.  Rabbi Parr is available for speaking engagements, workshops and keynotes at rabbiparr@gmail.com.

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