Posts tagged " leadership "

Say Little and Lead Much

March 21st, 2017 Posted by Thought Tools 19 comments

Leaders enjoy many benefits.  People seen as leaders get promoted and opportunities come their way.  Parents whose children respect them as leaders have more functional families.   But how do you begin the process of getting others to see you as a leader?

We have all seen leadership in action.  Perhaps one participant at a meeting emerges as the clear leader of the group.  Or people listen more attentively to one person than to another.  Groups coalesce around the one individual who is regarded as more authoritative than anyone else.

I’m sure you’ve seen parents who enjoy such excellent rapport with their children that obedience is almost automatic.  It is clear that the children view the parents as leaders.  Authentic leadership skills that are effective in a work environment are also effective in a family or social environment.  We just need to know what these skills are.

The first and most important skill is to learn to use words sparingly.  Babbling is a sure way to jettison leadership credibility.  A crucial part of using words sparingly is to do more listening than talking. A great way to achieve this is by doing more asking than telling.  Imagine a parent concerned about his or her teenager’s friends.   If the parent starts shouting or accusing, the child switches off.  However, if instead the parent gently and firmly asks questions, exhibiting real interest and concern, information will eventually flow.

Negotiations follow similar rules.  Many of our interactions with others are really negotiations. Some are formally declared while others are negotiations masquerading as discussions or conversations.  The most common mistake is  to firmly articulate your position at the beginning.  People sometimes do this because they fear being seen as weak or being maneuvered into yielding ground.  Don’t for a moment think the other side is even listening to your opening position; they’re busy planning their own opening lines.

Instead, it is far more effective to draw as many words as possible from the other side by means of asking questions.  “Won’t you start by sharing with me some of your initial thoughts? I’d be interested to hear how you see this.”

This permanent principle of not talking unnecessarily is repeatedly visible in ancient Jewish wisdom.  We certainly think of Samson as more of a doer than a talker, right?

And Samson and his father and mother went down to Timnah, and they came to the vineyards of Timnah, when a lion roared towards him.  And the Lord’s spirit rested upon him, and he tore it as one would tear a goat, though he had nothing in his hand.  He did not tell his father and mother what he had done.
(Judges 14:5-6)

The first question to consider is why the lion roared only towards Samson (him)? Why does the verse not tell us that the lion roared towards them?  Even if that was so, all three of them went on this excursion together. Why would he need to tell his parents about something they saw?

The answer to the first question lies in the words telling us that they came to the vineyards of Timnah. Remember Samson’s prenatal history. The angel gave instructions regarding his mother and ancient Jewish wisdom tells us that she followed these rules for the rest of her life:

From all that comes out of the grapevine she shall not eat,
and wine or strong drink she may not drink…
(Judges 13:14)

Arriving at the Vineyards of Timnah, Samson’s mother elected to keep distant from the grapes and so she chose to circle around the vineyards with her husband.  Meeting up again with Samson on the other side of the vineyards, he keeps quiet about what occurred and they continued on their mission to Timnah.

There, a negotiation of sorts was about to occur.  A foreigner, Samson, was marrying one of the Philistine women.  Thirty men came in force to intimidate Samson. He proceeds to ask them a question in the form of a riddle.  As the story unfolds, only he and his wife know the answer, so when the men solve the riddle, it is clear to all that his wife betrayed him and that her people did not respect the marital bond.

…Had you not plowed with my heifer, you would not have found out my riddle.
(Judges 14:18)

By not telling his parents, Samson was able to control the situation, setting up his attack on the Philistines.

There is no quicker or more effective way to show leadership than to demonstrate self-discipline.  The poet John Milton wrote a biography of Oliver Cromwell in which he explained that the latter’s military skills and leadership were grounded in self-discipline. “He was a soldier well versed in self-knowledge and whatever enemy lay within—vain hopes, fears, desires—he had either previously destroyed within himself or had long since reduced to subjection.”

This is why self-discipline is regularly voted the most important measure of leadership. Speaking in a measured and thoughtful way is the first proof of self-discipline we encounter in those we meet.

Our audio CD, Perils of Profanity: You Are What You Speak, explores the impact of speech on both our economic and romantic lives. Scripture repeatedly stresses the importance of what comes out of our mouths and this CD will help you work on this area of self-control, yielding immeasurable benefit. Enjoy the download version for only $5.00 this week and step onto your own road to leadership.

Rabbi Lapin Download

Auf Wiedersehen, Deutschland

January 13th, 2016 Posted by Thought Tools No Comment yet

Have you ever found yourself pursuing a self-destructive course of action as if propelled by some invisible malignant force? Maybe it was an out of control shopping spree you could ill afford. Or perhaps you lost your temper with a child, threatening draconian penalties that you could never enforce. What of the business professional focused on his needless lawsuit who is more concerned with dominating his foe than in the welfare of his company and its people? What demented determination drives us to follow harmful paths?

You might well ask the same question to the governments of the United Kingdom, Sweden and Germany, to name just three of many European countries that have relentlessly increased the number of disaffected young Muslim men within their borders. Despite colossal increases in the rates of muggings and murders, rapes, robberies and riots, not to mention terrorism committed disproportionately by Moslem migrants, the respective governments strenuously cling to the policies that brought their countries to the very edge of calamity. What mad mood suffuses these governments to make them destroy their societies and ignore their citizens’ best interests? (more…)

Lions and Foxes and Me, Oh My

May 4th, 2010 Posted by Thought Tools 1 comment

  Has anyone ever asked you whether you are more a cat or a dog person?  Before you answer, think about this: Members of the cat family, including lions, often carry their tails high.


Most times, members of the dog family, including foxes, hunt with their noses close to the ground as they follow a scent.  So lions generally raise their tails, while foxes lower their heads.

These are not merely idle observations about animals from a rabbi who enjoys Animal Planet and National Geographic shows about God’s amazing creatures.  No, they help explain a famous aphorism from ancient Jewish wisdom, “Become a tail to lions rather than a head to foxes.”


In other words, we can attach ourselves to people who make us feel as if we are their heads.  They flatter us by asking our opinions, emulate us and make us feel important.  However, standing at their head still barely raises us above ground level. Inevitably, they keep us down.  Our association with such ‘fox-like’ people tends to reduce rather than elevate us.


On the other hand, there are others who offer us an opportunity to serve them.  They don’t call us “boss”—instead they issue directives.  Rather than flattering us, they tell us the truth and correct our mistakes.  In the end, these ‘lion-like’ people raise us up.


Remember when along with a gas fill-up, an enthusiastic young person offered to check your oil and clean your windshield?  One particular gas station always had lines of eager customers because its attendants took really good care of visiting motorists.


Its owner was known to pay the lowest wages around.  He also had the highest employee turnover.  Why did his young employees provide such exemplary service?


It turns out that the canny owner gave the following speech to all his new hires.


“I won’t be paying you much but this is the best first job you could ever have.

If you do well, you won’t be here long.  Do what I say and I guarantee that you

will soon start receiving job proposals paying far more than I’m offering. 

Take one of those jobs. You will have earned it.”


He explained that successful business owners actively look for good employees.  They are alert and aware that someone who makes a good impression greeting customers, pumping gas and cleaning bugs off windshields, can probably do a whole lot more than that.


The gas station owner never lacked for new employees eager to climb onto his career escalator.  The enterprising motorists who hired away his people found employees willing to start at the bottom and work hard to move up.  The young people learned vital work skills while making important connections. A good deal all around.


These young high school kids could have ended up in first jobs with ordinary bosses who saw them as unimportant, indistinguishable low wage earners.  Instead they lucked into becoming tails to a lion.


In chapter 27 of the Biblical book of Numbers, God informs Moses that his time on this earth is coming to an end.  Moses responds by expressing the concern that Israel not be ‘like sheep without a shepherd’ and asking God to appoint his replacement. 


Who might this replacement be?  After all, the Israelites had prestigious heads of tribes. They had prominent princes.  There were priests, judges, and other leaders. Moses himself had two sons. Surely one of these high ranking eminences was to become his successor?


Yet the Lord said:


Take Joshua…a man in whom there is the spirit…

 (Numbers 27:18)


Who was Joshua?  He was Moses’ attendant.  Yet Moses was a lion and through serving him, Joshua learned, grew, and became the man who led Israel into the Promised Land.