Friday, February 26, 2016

Charisma and Leadership

By HaRav Mordechai Greenberg
Rosh HaYeshiva, Kerem B'Yavneh

"Look, I have announced the name of Betzalel Ben Uri..." [Shemot 31:2]. This phrase is repeated in the Torah portion of Vayakhel, but there Moshe is speaking and he tells Yisrael, "Look, G-d has announced..." [35:30]. In the Talmud (Berachot), it is written that no official should be appointed to lead the community unless the people are consulted first, as is shown by this second verse. G-d asked Moshe, is Betzalel acceptable to you? He replied, if he is acceptable to you, is it not obvious that I will accept him? G-d replied, in spite of this, go and ask Yisrael. And the people said, if Betzalel is acceptable for you and the Holy One, Blessed be He, isn't it clear that we will accept him too?

Rav Avraham Yitzchak Kook explains that a leader in Yisrael must have three characteristics:

(1) Good behavior and a pure heart, righteousness, and honesty. These traits can only be known by G-d, since only He is familiar with the inner workings of the heart.

(2) The deep wisdom that a leader must have. This good trait can be seen by other people, but only if they are unique – very wise people who can see his thought processes. Not everybody knows how to find out about this.

(3) Charisma, external attractiveness, the ability to talk, and the ability to connect to other people. This trait can be recognized by all the other people.

However, there are various levels of all these matters. The leadership will be firmly established only if it is based on the above three traits, and they must appear in the above sequence. That is, the main thing to consider first is the trait of righteousness and piety. Wisdom comes next, and the last element to be considered is charisma. Only in this sequence will the leadership be able to gain the confidence of the people. However, if the sequence is reversed and charisma becomes the most important trait while righteousness is viewed as the least important one, the leadership will be merely a distorted version of the truth.

When the Holy One, Blessed be He, asked Moshe for an opinion about Betzalel, he replied to the specific question that was asked. The question was about Betzalel's wisdom. He replied, "If he is acceptable to You, he must clearly be acceptable to me." That is, the good trait that I can discern is second in importance to the spiritual perfection that only G-d could determine. And then Moshe went to consult with Bnei Yisrael, specifically whether they saw a trait of charisma in Betzalel. They replied in kind: "If he is acceptable to you, he will certainly be acceptable to us." That is, after the Holy One, Blessed be He, testified to Betzalel's honesty and righteousness and Moshe testified about his wisdom, the people also affirmed that they recognized his perfection.

In the end, it is clear that charisma is an important trait for a leader as long as it is combined with the main traits – righteousness, uprightness, honesty, and wisdom. When charisma is disassociated from the other traits and becomes the only trait by which a person is judged, the leadership is doomed to fail.

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