Leadership lessons for Moses, from the Torah… his woes, his father-in-law as mentor and God as Coach

January 31st, 2011

Talk about a tough job load!  Yes, I know how hard many of our CEO’s have it, especially the women CEO’s and executives who not only have to juggle the demands of employees, customers, their Board, the Street and whatever current key stakeholder has their hooks into them at any given moment.  But for a minute consider Moses… when God handed him the Ten Commandments and told him he had to both lead his people out of servitude, into the desert AND institute an whole new set of policies and procedures.

Talk about change management!

These thoughts came screaming to me as I sat in temple in Boca Raton, Florida, for my niece’s son’s Bar Mitzvah.  The Torah reading was about Moses and the Ten Commandments.  The visiting Rabbi offered a few interesting stories in a similar vein.  My perspective quickly jumped to applying his ruminations to my field and how the executives I coach might benefit from this common sense viewpoint.

If Moses needed help in leading his people, and a big part of that help meant delegating, of course that applies not only to executives but anyone who’s managing others, right?  Well yes, except why is it that so many managers, especially CEOs, have a hard time doing just that?  

Ego?  Perfectionism?  Control issues?  Just plain fear that they’ll screw it up?

All of the above?

Ok, you’ve come this far along your career because often times you’re the smartest person in the room and how can you possibly delegate your most critical tasks/projects/assignments to someone so wet behind the ears?

By knowing everyone’s strengths, playing to them, calibrating them along the way and by allowing enough ‘room’ for everyone to make their own mistakes (hey, you’ve made your fair share of them, right); as long as everyone gets to learn from them.  So they don’t get repeated.

If that sums up a lesson on delegating, what kind of message was God giving Moses about integrating?  He told him to not only respect his father-in-law (one of the commandments covered this already) but to go a step further and look to his years of wisdom, and his different perspective, as inspiration and guidance for Moses as he wondered how he’d manage the exodus our to Egypt and the 40 year struggle ahead.  A father-in-law as mentor, if you will.

Last by certainly not least, Moses looked to God for guidance, advice, insight, perspective… all of the wonderful things that a good coach brings to a relationship where leadership is critical and the leader is better served not trying to do it all alone.