This week’s Torah portion, in describing Moses’ plea to G-d about his immediate successor, details what true leadership looks like and the essential qualities that comprise such headship.
Let the L-rd, the G-d of the spirits of all flesh, set a man over the congregation who may go out before them, and who may go in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in; that the congregation of the L-rd be not as sheep which have no shepherd. And G-d said to Moses, “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is spirit, and lay your hand upon him.” (Numbers 27:16-18)
As he neared the end of his leadership term, Moses expressed no concern about enhancing his personal legacy and reveling in past accomplishments. His words conveyed a deep sense of care about his people’s future.
Moreover, Moses was concerned about each community member individually. His reference to the Almighty as “the G-d of the spirits of all flesh” highlighted His knowledge of human intricacies, a knowledge that Moses hoped would be bestowed on his successor to ensure proper, individualized leadership. Moses’ concern naturally also extended to the collective whole, as expressed by his request that his successor be one “who may go in before them, and who may lead them out, and who may bring them in”.
True leadership implies a deep connectivity. It is not simply a means to achieve power and prestige, using the people, as it were, to achieve personal goals and gain power. True leadership demands that leaders prioritize the needs of their followers to the very end, to worry about them even when their tenure has concluded. It is not sufficient to say that I have done my time, that I did what I could while I was positioned to make a difference; now it's my successor's turn. Real leaders remain interested and concerned to the very end and seek to ensure that the person who follows them will be as caring, competent and supportive of the people as he was, if not more so.