The Maccabee in You

Leadership is a special privilege that offers individuals opportunities to guide and inspire others, to set agendas and see projects to their conclusion. However, the leadership road can oftentimes be quite bumpy, where we feel as if we have lost control of the situation around us. Sometimes leaders must step into a new role in order to address a pressing need. Such was the case of Matthias, the elderly priest who assumed an expanded leadership role at a time of great national duress in order to save his nation and the Torah that they treasured.

Below are some Chanukah-related leadership lessons that we can apply within our own lines of work and our lives in general. 

Know what’s at stake – When Matthias killed a Hellenized Jew as the latter was preparing to sacrifice a swine to Zeus, he did not do so in a vacuum.  He recognized the collective threat posed by the Seleucid forces and the Hellenists. Both were eager to redefine Jewish attitudes and Jewish practice, and placed Torah observance at the center of their destructive agenda. Matthias understood that at such times of spiritual threat, definitive action must be taken, despite the odds.

The takeaway for leaders is plain. Evaluate your circumstance. Identify potential threats and challenges and act as proactively as possible to thwart them. On the positive side, leaders need to recognize their core purpose and remain as focused as possible on advancing that cause. Too often, we get distracted by competing objectives or peripheral interests and fail to invest sufficient energy on what’s really important. Staying above the fray and remaining attentive to your primary goals can make all the difference between achievement and failure.

Identify the right person for the job – Judah, Matthias’s handpicked successor, was not the eldest son. Yet, when his father, on his deathbed, selected Judah to assume the reigns of leadership, he did so because he recognized that his third son’s blend of piety, tactical skill and general capacity made him the right man for the job. This may or may not have been the most popular decision, but it was the choice that the Jewish nation needed in order to defeat the Seleucids.

Oftentimes, leaders struggle with choosing the right person to assume positions of influence within their organizations. They may have a few legitimate candidates, each with meaningful skill sets and experiences. Some may also be popular or well connected. They may not, however, necessarily represent the most important qualities for the position. A leader needs to identify what it is that the position and circumstance demand and make the best possible selection, even if it means bypassing the popular choice and going beyond the organization to find the right fit.

Do what you can… and then pray – Judah was a great leader with many admirable physical qualities. Yet, he is recorded numerous times as leading his troops in prayer for success against the enemy. He understood that there was only so much that he could do; success, if it were to occur, would ultimately have to be divinely orchestrated. He also took no credit for his successes. God was the root cause of his victories.

Successful leaders do all that they can to achieve their goals. They invest all of the necessary effort and talent to meet and exceed their objectives. But they also need to be able to step back and bring their Maker into the picture. They pray for their success, knowing full well that it will not occur without His blessing.

The struggle of Matthias, Judah and the Hasmoneans offer us many insights into how to live inspired lives and lead change. Let us hope that the lessons that we have gleaned will help us in our capacities to bring added focus, fulfillment and sense of purpose to our tasks, so that we can lead optimally, and bring our teams to new levels of achievement.