The book of Exodus, which tells the story of Israel’s people leaving Egypt under Moses and his brother Aaron’s leadership, is a splendid manual on leadership. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t read the scriptures because they are useful. I read them because I love them. I love them because they are beautiful and because I feel like they could make me a better person. But for those of you who don’t love the scriptures, beware the book of Exodus contains all you need to know about leadership.
The Bible says Moses knew from God. But how does God speak to man? It never happens through objective reasoning. Moses didn’t have any useful objective data that would have allowed him to make a reasonably good decision. Moses knew almost nothing about the land in front of him and the strength of its armies. He needed to rely on his inner voice, through intuition, prayer, belly feeling, dreaming, sense of responsibility and love for his people, in short through his own subjectivity.
If good leadership in difficult circumstances requires subjectivity, it has a serious implication for the leader. The people need to believe him. They need to give him the authority to rely on his personal subjective feelings. They will only do this if they believe he is good, wise and integer. And this belief is usually based on some common experience in extremely bad conditions, such as the experience in the Sinai desert. If the people’s belief gets lost through some negative experience, the leader becomes extremely vulnerable. The leadership crisis we observe today, is due to a lack of common experience in the desert and a lack of willingness to grant authority to someone else, usually because of our own narcissism. The conclusion of this blog is that in leadership, subjectivity is objectively required.
Picture: Mount Nebo, Jordan, 2023 Courtesy of Patricia Deneffe