web analytics
December 25, 2014 / 3 Tevet, 5775
 
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘leadership’

Sprints And Marathons

Thursday, April 10th, 2014

It was a unique, unrepeatable moment of leadership at its highest height. For forty days Moses had been communing with God, receiving from Him the law written on tablets of stone. Then God informed him that the people had just made a golden calf. He was about to destroy them. It was the worst crisis of the wilderness years, and it called for every one of Moses’s gifts as a leader.

First, he prayed to God not to destroy the people. God agreed. Then he went down the mountain and saw the people cavorting around the calf. Immediately, he smashed the tablets. He burned the calf, mixed its ashes with water and made the people drink. Then he called for people to join him. The Levites heeded the call and carried out a bloody punishment in which three thousand people died. Then Moses went back up the mountain and prayed for forty days and nights. Then for a further forty days he stayed with God while a new set of tablets was engraved. Finally he came down the mountain on 10 Tishrei carrying the new tablets with him as a visible sign that God’s covenant with Israel remained.

This was an extraordinary show of leadership, at times bold and decisive, at others slow and persistent. Moses had to contend with both sides, inducing the Israelites to do teshuvah and God to exercise forgiveness. At that moment he was the greatest ever embodiment of the name Israel, meaning one who wrestles with God and with people – and prevails.

The good news is that there once was a Moses. Because of him, the people survived. The bad news: what happens when there is no Moses? The Torah itself says, “No other prophet has risen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face” (Deuteronomy 34:10). That is the problem faced by every nation, corporation, community and family. What do you do in the absence of heroic leadership? It is easy to say, “Think what Moses would have done.” But Moses did what he did because he was what he was. We are not Moses. That is why every human group that was once touched by greatness faces a problem of continuity. How does it avoid a slow decline?

The answer is given in this week’s parshah. The day Moses descended the mountain with the second tablets was to be immortalized by turning its anniversary into a holy day, Yom Kippur. On it, the drama of teshuvah and kapparah, repentance and atonement, was to be repeated annually. This time, though, the key figure would not be Moses but Aaron, not the prophet but the high priest.

That is how you perpetuate a transformative event: by turning it into a ritual. Max Weber called this the routinization of charisma. A once-and-never-again moment becomes a once-and-ever-again ceremony. As James MacGregor Burns puts it in his classic work, Leadership: “The most lasting tangible act of leadership is the creation of an institution – a nation, a social movement, a political party, a bureaucracy – that continues to exert moral leadership and foster needed social change long after the creative leaders are gone.”

There is a remarkable midrash in which various sages put forward their idea of klal gadol ba’Torah, the great principle of the Torah. Ben Azzai says it is the verse, “This is the book of the chronicles of man: On the day that God created man, He made him in the likeness of God” (Genesis 5:1). Ben Zoma says that there is a more embracing principle, “Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one.” Ben Nannas says there is a yet more embracing principle: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Ben Pazzi says we find a more embracing principle still: “The first sheep shall be offered in the morning, and the second sheep in the afternoon” (Exodus 29:39) – or, as we might say today, Shacharit, Minchah and Ma’ariv. In a word: “routine.” The passage concludes: The law follows Ben Pazzi.

The Two-State Solution Is Obsolete

Wednesday, November 20th, 2013

The Americans, the Europeans and the international community in general are constantly demanding the implementation of a two-state solution based on the 1967 borders. For example, when French President Francois Hollande spoke at the Knesset recently, he stated, “We need a compromise through a two-state solution.” He emphasized that Jerusalem should be a shared capital city of both the Jewish and Palestinian peoples and stressed that settlement construction should come to an end. Statements by US President Barack Obama, US Secretary of State John Kerry, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon, and Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron are very similar to Hollande’s.

However, any political analysis of the current situation on the ground in the Holy Land would suggest that such models are an obsolete way of thinking. For starters, the Gaza Strip and the Palestinian Authority are not controlled by the same political entity. The Gaza Strip is controlled by the Hamas terrorist organization, who to date refuses to reconcile with the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority. By refusing to sign a reconciliation agreement with Fatah, Hamas has essentially ensured that there can be no united Palestinian leadership. If there is no united Palestinian leadership, there can’t be a unified Palestinian state.

History is full of examples of entities that broke up because they were separated by geographic distance and cultural differences. Bangladesh used to be East Pakistan. However, the culture in Bangladesh is very different from the Pakistani mentality. In Pakistan, they primarily speak Urdu, while the language in Bangladesh is Bangla. The Bangladeshi people felt oppressed by Pakistan. Some Bangladeshis accuse them of committing genocide against them. Furthermore, Pakistan was geographically disconnected from them and so they decided to break off to become a separate country.

The situation is quite similar in regards to the Fatah-dominated Palestinian Authority and the Hamas-dominated Gaza Strip. Fatah supporters in the Gaza Strip feel oppressed by Hamas and Hamas supporters within the Palestinian Authority view the Fatah leadership with disdain. Furthermore, the populations in Gaza and Judea and Samaria are very different from each other culturally speaking. The Arabs living in Judea and Samaria are more liberal and cosmopolitan than the ones living in the Gaza Strip. To add insult to injury, the two territories are geographically disconnected from each other and the two populations rarely intermarry with each other.

The Fatah-Hamas divide in itself should have killed the idea of a two-state for two peoples’ paradigm. This should be the case especially given the fact that Hamas refuses to recognize the existence of the Jewish state as well and states specifically in their charter that they are opposed to all peace negotiations. They support waging a violent jihad until Israel ceases to exist. For them, it is war until either Israel vanishes or they cease to exist.

Even if Fatah recognizes Israel’s right to exist, in the absence of a military defeat of Hamas, two-states for two peoples living in peace is a fairy tale for children. Yet interestingly enough, even Fatah remains committed to destroying Israel in phases, refuses to recognize Israel as a Jewish state, and views the two-states for two-people’s paradigm merely as the first phase towards liberating all of Palestine. Given this reality, it is time for the international community to consider other models for resolving the Palestinian-Israeli conflict in the absence of paradigms that have been proven to be unworkable.

The Unpredicted Consequences of the German Elections

Tuesday, October 1st, 2013

Originally published at Gatestone Institute.

The German elections had two important consequences, one predicted, the other one unpredicted. As expected, the number of Islamic members of the Bundestag, the German Parliament, has increased.

The Christian-Democrat CDU of Chancellor Angela Merkel now has its first Muslim parliamentarian. Cemile Giousouf, the 35-year old daughter of a Turkish immigrant, was elected in Hagen, a city in the industrial Ruhr area with a foreign population of 40%.

Germany has 800,000 Turkish voters. The Turks make up the largest ethnic group within Germany’s Muslim population of some 4 million people, Previously, the Turks had five parliamentarians out of 630 Bundestag members; in the 22 September general elections, this number more than doubled to eleven. Ten of them belong to the left or far-left – five are members of the Social-Democrat SPD, three of the Green Party, and two of the Communist Die Linke (Left Party) — and one is with the center-right CDU.

The number of Bundestag members with an immigrant background rose from 21 to 34, with Die Linke having the highest percentage of immigrant politicians in their ranks followed by the Greens.

Ms. Giousouf’s Islamic convictions — her “religious otherness” as she calls it — did not pose problems for a party that claims to be founded on Christian-Democrat principles. Her candidacy was challenged, however, by another female candidate on grounds of seniority. Despite the other candidate having been active in the party for three decades, the CDU leadership preferred to give the prominent position on the party list to Giousouf because of her ethnic background. Ms. Giousouf defended this decision by stating, “If we immigrants are forced to put up campaign posters for the next 30 years, there won’t be any [immigrant] representatives in the Bundestag.”

For the first time, two black candidates were elected in the Bundestag. One of them, Charles Muhamed Huber, for Merkel’s CDU, the other, Karamba Diaby, for the Social-Democrat SPD. Both Mr Huber and Mr Diaby are of Senegalese origin.

While the international media devoted relatively little attention to Mr. Huber — despite his self-declared sympathy for the American Black Panther movement — there was huge interest in Mr Diaby, who was born in 1961 in the Muslim village of Masassoum. Through his political activities at Dakar University in the early 1980s, he came into contact with a Communist organization. In 1985, he was given a scholarship to study in Communist East Germany, where he subsequently settled.

Mr Diaby joined the SPD and became the national chairman of Gemany’s Immigration and Integration Council (Bundeszuwanderungs-und Integrationsrat). Two years ago, he gained prominence when he advocated the imprisonment of Thilo Sarrazin, a fellow SPD politician and a former member of the Executive Board of the Bundesbank, Germany’s central bank. Mr. Sarrazin had authored a book, Deutschland schafft sich ab [Germany Abolishes Itself], in which he said that Islamic immigration is threatening Germany’s prosperity and freedom. Mr. Sarrazin argued that most Islamic immigrants are unwilling to integrate and tend to rely more on welfare benefits than do other immigrant groups.

Turkish and Islamic organizations accused Sarrazin of “racism,” but were unable to get him sentenced in court. The SPD leadership twice attempted to throw Mr. Sarrazin out of the party, but both attempts were unsuccessful. Polls indicated that Sarrazin was backed by an overwhelming majority of the Germans, including SPD members. Mr. Diaby petitioned the Bundestag, demanding that German criminal law be changed to ensure that statements such as those made in Sarrazin’s book would be punishable with a prison sentence. The German lawmakers, however, failed to do so. The SPD leadership subsequently gave Mr. Diaby a prominent place on its electoral list, which enabled him to be elected as a lawmaker, so that he is now in a position to try to change German laws from within the parliament.

While the growth of Islamic influence within the German political system, including the Christian-Democrat Party, was predicted, an unpredicted consequence of the September 22 general elections was the Bundestag’s swing to the left, despite the electorate’s swing to the right. This is the result of the German electoral system with its 5% electoral threshold.

The biggest winners of the elections were Chancellor Merkel’s center-right Christian-Democrats. They won 41.5% of the vote — far better than in the 2009 general elections, when they had 33.7%.

The biggest losers were the Liberals. The German Liberal Party FDP, which is economically to the right of Merkel’s CDU, fell from 14.6% in 2009 to 4.8%. The electorate punished the FDP, which had promised its voters tax cuts but, despite forming a government coalition with Ms. Merkel, failed to deliver on this promise.

Although the FDP won over 2 million of the 43.7 million votes, as the party was unable to make the 5% hurdle, and as a result it did not get a single parliamentary seat. The same applied to the conservative Alternative fuer Deutschland party (AfD), a newly established party, critical of the euro. AfD won 4.7% of the vote, an unexpectedly high result for a new party, but not a single representative. The far-right NPD won 1.3%. Taken together, 10.8% of the electorate voted for a party to the right of Merkel’s Christian-Democrats, but not a single parliamentarian to Merkel’s right got elected.

Merkel’s Christian-Democrats, the FDP, AfD and NPD combined won 52.3% of the vote (51%, excluding the far-right NPD). However, in the Bundestag the parties of the Left — SPD, Greens and the Communists of Die Linke – hold 50.7% of the seats.

That the FDP fell just below the electoral threshold deprives Merkel of the possibility to form a center-right coalition. Theoretically, the left is able to form a coalition with the far-left, but as the SPD had ruled out governing with Die Linke, Germany is left with just two choices: Either a coalition of Merkel with the leftist Greens, or a so-called “grand coalition” of the CDU with the center-left SPD.

In any event, Germany’s new coalition will be to the left of the previous CDU-FDP coalition, while the voters had clearly indicated that they wanted Germany to turn to the right. The future looks promising, however, for AfD. Never before has a party that was established barely a few months before, done so well in the elections. And given that Merkel will be forced to move to the left, the prospect of disenchanted conservative Christian-Democrats flocking to AfD are huge. There is little doubt that AfD will gain seats in the European Parliament in next year’s European elections. If the AfD leadership manages to avoid internal quarrels, in 2017 the party will likely enter the Bundestag.

Back in the USSR

Wednesday, September 18th, 2013

Those among us who are middle-aged or older will remember a song by the Beatles called “Back to the USSR”. Ever since the minor crisis regarding the Asad regime’s use of chemical weapons, this song has been stuck my head.

This minor crisis has revealed, emphasized and demonstrated what we wrote about here long ago, which is the weakening of the Western bloc, especially the United States, and the return of the opposing group to the center of international stage under Russian leadership.  Putin’s article in the New York Times openly expressed his opinion about the old-new international situation, in which the world has stopped being a unipolar system, and has gone back to being a bipolar system, as it was until the end of the eighties, when the Soviet Union collapsed, and the allies in Eastern Europe left it in favor of joining with the Western, democratic world, and afterward, the European Union.

The Russian Bloc is based on non-democratic countries that are hostile to the West, whether from a cultural point of view, like China and Syria, or a religious point of view, like Iran. Countries where democracy is limping along like Venezuela and Nicaragua, also join up with Russia, who doesn’t bother them too much about marginal matters like human rights and political freedoms. North Korea also enjoys China’s and Russia’s political protection, especially in the UN Security Council.

Today’s anti-democratic glue is apparently better than the glue of Slavic identity that formed the “Warsaw Pact” because it is a world view and a cultural perspective. Back then, membership in the Soviet bloc was forced on the states (for instance, in Czechoslovakia and the Soviet invasion of 1968), while today, states freely choose to belong to the Russian bloc. It is not yet a consolidated and unified bloc, but one definitely sees that this union of anti-democratic forces is winning ever more diplomatic territory in the international sphere. There is an important military aspect to this alliance, due to the supply of Russian weaponry to Iran, Syria and Hezbollah.

Many countries in the world compare the behavior of the bloc under Russian leadership to the conduct of the West under United States’ leadership and conclude: The United States betrays her friends and abandons them, while Russia is faithful to her friends and defends them. When the world analyzes what the United States has done for states and rulers in recent years it finds Mubarak, who was abandoned by President Obama with the start of demonstrations against him; the president of Tunisia – bin Ali – who was forced to flee from the demonstrations without even one of his European friends  to rescue him; the United States abandons its friends in the Gulf and in Saudi Arabia in the face of Iran’s threatening buildup; the West does not back Israel in its efforts to maintain its security and its strategic assets, and urges it to establish another Palestinian terror country in the mountains of Judea and Samaria, overlooking most of the territory of the State of Israel.

On the other hand, the world sees that Russia defends Iran and its nuclear project in the Security Council faithfully, and even supplies its reactors and the means of defending them; Russia is faithful to Asad and supplies him weaponry, ammunition and means of defense necessary for his survival; Russia supplies China with raw materials and places of employment.

In Economic matters as well, the West appears weak relative to Russia. Since six years ago, the Western economy – Europe and the United States together – has been caught in a structural crisis, not in a recession from which it is relatively easy to emerge. It seems that the unification of currency (the Euro) and production standards are not enough to make Europe into one body, so divisive forces exist there that even threaten the stability of some countries: the region of Catalonia wants to secede from Spain, and the Scots apparently will leave the United Kingdom in another year. Europe is addicted to Russian gas, and to oil that, by Iran’s “good will”, is allowed to pass through the Strait of Hormuz on its route from the Emirates to Europe.

Regarding the issue of Syrian chemical weapons, the West has seemed like a crumbling and disintegrating body, with no leader and no shared agenda. The British parliament is against war, the French is for it, and the American administration says that it’s getting ready to attack, Congress doesn’t support it, the American army is preparing for war and the State Department puts forth a compromise. The right hand does not know what the left is doing, and each one acts according to a different agenda. This is no way to build a bloc of states that is capable of executing a mission that everyone agrees is ethically justified: to defend the citizens of Syria from chemical weapons. And when ethics ceases to be the leading cause for the West, what is left of its values?

Egypt Coptic Christian Leadership Condemns Western Media Coverage

Tuesday, August 20th, 2013

In the face of an unprecedented wave of violence directed against Coptic Christians amid the turmoil in Egypt that has left hundred’s dead, the church’s leadership issued a statement condemning the Western media’s biased coverage of the events in Egypt.

“We strongly denounce the fallacies broadcasted by the Western media and invite them to review the facts objectively regarding these bloody radical organizations and their affiliates instead of legitimizing them with global support and political protection while they attempt to spread devastation and destruction in our dear land,” reads the statement, according to a Google translation.

“We request that the international and western media adhere to providing a comprehensive account of all events with truth, accuracy, and honesty,” the statement added.

The Coptic Church also reaffirmed its support for the military-backed government, calling on the army and security forces to continue their fight against the “armed violent groups and black terrorism.”

One of the oldest communities in Christianity, Coptic Christians have survived numerous persecutions in the past. But the recent violence is unprecedented. The Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR), an independent human rights organization, has documented 39 attacks against Coptic Christian churches, schools, monasteries and businesses since late last week, NPR reported.

Coptic Christians constituted a majority of Egypt’s population until the Middle Ages, when Islam, introduced by the Arab invasions in the 7th century, eclipsed their religion. Today, Coptic Christianity comprises nearly 10 percent of Egypt’s 85 million people, making it the largest single Christian community remaining in the Middle East.

Chief Rabbis & Politics

Monday, August 5th, 2013

I have never been a fan of chief rabbis. Anyone appointed by committees, politicians, or bureaucrats is suspect in my eyes. Perhaps my antipathy is rooted in the days when both Napoleon and the czar appointed state chief rabbis whom they approved of because they were likely to support their agendas. I can say with confidence that, in general, the greatest rabbis, whether intellectually or spiritually, have never been interested in public appointments.

I don’t mean to say that all chief rabbis have been duds. Israel’s Chief Rabbis Abraham Isaac Kook, Isaac Herzog, and Uziel were great men by any criteria. Chief Rabbi Goren was a dynamic overachiever and a fearless innovator. Some, like Ovadiah Yosef, have been great scholars but poor spokesmen. But there have been too many others who were undiplomatic, corrupt, or ineffective. The reason can simply be put down to politics. When appointments are made by groups of political appointees (or self-appointed grandees) they invariably make the wrong decisions. Neither is public acclaim a reliable test of the best person for the job. Those who seek or need public recognition are rarely willing or able to take the tough and controversial stands that are the mark of genuine leadership.

Israel recently appointed two chief rabbis, both the sons of previous chief rabbis. I do not know either of them. But remarks I have seen attributed to them leave me deeply depressed that they will reflect a xenophobic, narrow perspective and shrink from trying to humanize the rabbinate. The political maneuvering, the arm twisting, the deals behind closed doors all point to a corrupt system. And once gain the innovative, the exciting have lost out. If a good man ever emerges it is despite the system not because of it. Nepotism is a poor way of producing great leaders. Yet throughout Jewish religious institutions nepotism is the norm rather than the exception. Yeshivot nowadays are often big family businesses (as indeed are most Chasidic dynasties).

Israel has two chief rabbis, one Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi. This in itself is evidence of how flawed the system is, that in a small religion such as ours religious leadership cannot work together. In addition, in Israel, there is a huge disconnect between the religious leadership and the common person, between the state rabbinate and the Charedi world, which has its own authorities. Indeed the Charedi world always rubbished and abused the state rabbinate until, in the desperate search for jobs for the boys and power, it began to infiltrate and then take much of it over. Once again it has ensured that its candidates have got the jobs.

One of the first words in Ivrit I learnt was “protektsia” (yes, I know it comes from Russian). “Vitamin P” meant you could not get anywhere in Israeli life, from top to bottom, religious or secular, without knowing someone or having someone pull strings in your behalf. So it was and so it largely remains. When this disease infects religion, it loses its moral authority.

But surely, you will say, Judaism requires one to respect one’s religious leaders. In theory this is so. The Torah commands respect for princes and scholars. Our liturgy is full of references to their importance. But there are two very distinct types of leadership in our tradition. The prophet and the judge emerged through merit. That’s probably why there were women judges and prophets. Rabbis as a rule were the result of meritocracy (the rabbinic dynasties that began with Hillel wanted to have their cake and eat it). On the other hand, the priesthood and the monarchy were both hereditary, and both failed. Most of the Jewish kings were idolatrous, evil men, and most priests showed more interest in money and power than Divine service.

Moshe typified the meritocracy. This was why he always defended himself by referring to his spotless record. It is true we say that in each generation we must accept the leader, Jephtah in his generation as the equivalent of Samuel in his. But I believe that has another meaning, of the need to accept the best we can get.

“Pray for the welfare of the ruling powers because otherwise humans would swallow each other up,” says the Mishna. That very Hobbesian idea underpins our modern secular states. But as Locke argued, if the king failed to do his job, you could and should get rid of him. This is why we pray for the State wherever we live, even as we may try our best to vote out whoever the current prime minister is. We in the West have recently experienced the irrational hysteria over a royal baby. I have no interest in ordinary people being elevated to positions of power or even symbolic authority simply on the basis of birth. There are enough inequalities in life of rank and wealth. I like the fact that we can vote people out of office as much as in. If I choose to respect someone, it is on the basis of the respect he or she earns, not the position they have been given. The diploma should be greater than the diaper.

I look forward to Elijah’s arrival. I hope he will not try to reinstate the monarchy. But I am pretty sure he will not insist on two kings, one Ashkenazi and the other Sefardi.

One of the reasons for so much disillusion with religion is precisely this disconnect between how its leaders too often behave and speak and their own purported religious values. The more we see how susceptible religious leadership is to money, power, and fame, the less good the religion they represent looks. I don’t care too much what politicians like Spitzer or Weiner get up to, and if people want to vote for them that’s their problem. But when religious leadership behaves like political leadership, something is very wrong.

The Best Job for 2013 and Beyond

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

U.S. News and World Report advises that if you want a “hot career,” you should become a registered nurse, software developer, or pharmacist. But they’re wrong. They are missing what America needs the most today, and will need even more tomorrow.

Which job will always be in demand, assure job satisfaction, impact the world, and may even make you rich?

To answer that question, look at the job market the same way an entrepreneur examines the commercial situation. Look for the biggest hole and then find the tools needed to fill it. Look around your workplace, look at your colleagues, and even at your bosses. What do you see?

The demise of leadership.

Leadership is a job

Sadly, people today, especially those just entering the workforce, lack the skills to lead their fellow workers. Having grown up in a society of entitlement, they learned that someone else is responsible for fixing every problem.

No job? The government should fix it. No health insurance? Other taxpayers should pay. Child fails in school? Blame the teacher. Declaring bankruptcy? It’s the bank’s fault for lending you the money.

The list goes on and on. We have a crisis of leadership because today’s young adults grew up in a society where they watched their parents blame others for every problem, and where they themselves never had to work hard. Without mentors and examples to lead the path of leadership, how will today’s youth grow into leaders?

What is a leader?

A leader is a dreamer. He must believe in himself and in others. He must love to teach and learn. He listens and speaks sparingly. He sets standards for himself and he values character. He’s a giver, not a taker.

The demise of leadership in the past 25 years has created fabulous job opportunities. Companies without visionary leaders will eventually fail. So don’t train yourself for a job qualification, because all you will do is work for one of the destined-to-fail firms. Rather, learn how to become a leader and you will find companies not looking to give you a job, but begging you to guide them.

Countless books have been written about how to become a leader. Others have been written about the benefits of having great leaders. Two of my favorites are Multipliers: How the Best Leaders Make Everyone Smarter by Liz Wiseman and Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… And Others Don’t  by Jim Collins.

I can tell you that as a financial adviser on Wall Street for over 20 years, I have witnessed the decline of quality leaders both in business and politics. If you can fill the shoes of the great men and women who led us in the previous generation, then you will change the world.

And that’s not a job. It’s a life.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/goldstein-on-gelt/the-best-job-for-2013-and-beyond/2012/12/11/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: