As the weekend of Passover begins, we too need a figure to lead us from plague to liberation
This weekend the festival of Passover begins, when Jews commemorate Moses taking a beaten-down nation of slaves from the clenched fist of ancient Egypt, then world’s mightiest empire and bringing them to freedom.
Moses had a speech impediment, a clearly defined awareness of his own faults, and a total lack of personal ambition. That is to say: he’s not like our current Prime Minister. But he has plenty to teach Boris Johnson, and the rest of our political class.
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Like the importance of truth. Being authentic doesn’t necessarily win political points in the short term. But The Moses Model shows that it does in the long term it does. Trust can be built with the electorate (or Israelite post Exodus multitude) so that governing and governed partner each other for the good of the country. A leader tells the truth. Even when the numbers are bad, they tell it how it is.
Crossing the Jordan River, Moses assures the Israelites that the mightier, more populous nations on the other side would lose; but not through the Israelites, through the might of God. Not because of the Israelites’ virtue, but the other nations’ wickedness. Being truthful and frank must take precedence over spin. Credibility is only earned through being credible.
A Moses-inspired ministerial model of leadership would centre on humility. The ability to retrospectively say “I was wrong, and could be wrong again”. Coming into contact with God for the first time, Moses hides his face, knowing his place before the Divine. Tasked with leading the Israelites at that same meeting, he protests that he can’t do so — he’s “slow of speech”. It is decided that his brother Aaron will serve as his spokesman, with Moses placing the words in Aaron’s mouth. Moses is aware of his shortcomings; his absence of ego propels him to form that symbiotic partnership for the good of his nation. Understanding our limitations is crucial for setting expectations, and being clear to others about them preserves an honest dialogue about what we can do together.
The last ingredient in the Moses Ministerial Model is courage. Having fortitude in the face of uncertainty. This is what adherence to truth and humility bring: a confrontation with reality. Sometimes this exposure brings one at odds with opponents and superiors. Throughout Moses’s leadership, he does not back down from dispute for the good of what is right. He kills an Egyptian slave master who’s torturing an Israelite slave, and uses his pluck and political acumen to negotiate God out of punishing the Israelites. To take a leap which may bring short-term pain for the good of long-term wellbeing is a difficult move to make – personal, political or otherwise. It’s one which only the highest calibre of leaders take.
Mosaic leadership has a track record of carrying a nation from plague to liberation. Today’s leaders could learn a lesson or two from it.