Friday, January 04, 2013

The Leadership Cliff

The goal of this blog is to facilitate an engaging, Torah-based conversation at your Shabbat table. Don't bother reading it now - just print and share!

"The fiscal cliff: when congressmen who are protected from a pay cut decide what happens to everyone else." - Andy Borowitz
"Al Qaeda Disbands; Says Job of Destroying US Economy Now in Congress' Hands." - Andy Borowitz
"Let's just go over the cliff! Let's just go. Because, you know why? At least for a few seconds, it'll feel like we're flying." - Jon Stewart

OK stop me if you've heard this one:

A rabbi, a priest and a penguin walk into a fiscal cliff bar.
The bartender says to the rabbi, "What'll you have?"
The rabbi points to the priest and says, "Whatever he's having!"
So the bartender turns to the priest, "What'll you have?"
He in turn points to the penguin and says, "Whatever he's having!"
Finally he turns to the penguin and asks, "So what'll it be?"
The penguin shrugs and says, __________________

January contest - finish the joke! Use comments section to send your entry.

Now seriously... let's talk about leadership.

This week's question for your table — What are the qualities of a great leader?

Here's one way of going about it. On each of these alternatives, choose the one that you think is most important:

1. [A] Wise in all major matters of state v. [B] Relies on wisdom of advisors
2. [A] Upholds the letter of the law v. [B] Upholds the spirit of the law
3. [A] Doesn’t make serious mistakes v. [B] Admits mistakes and apologizes
4. [A] Clean background v. [B] Proverbial skeleton in the closet
5. [A] Commands respect and wields authority v. [B] Walks humbly
6. [A] Multicultural v. [B] Patriotic
7. [A] Fully developed skills v. [B] Able to learn on the job

OK, don’t peek below until you’ve made your choices...

Now, I’m not claiming these are the "right" answers, but it seems to me that the weight of Jewish thought would say:

1. B – When King David faced an unemployment problem, he consulted his wise men (who happened to be legislators and judges) on what to do. (He had the advantage of having a few card-carrying prophets around the palace, but they were more vocal about the king's morality than on economics.)

2. A and B. Tough job. He or she should keep a travel-size copy of the Constitution on hand at all times as a reminder that not even the King (or President) is above the law. (I'm not sure the Kindle or iPhone/iPad version would count...perhaps.)

3. B – no question about this – everyone makes mistakes. If we expect perfect leaders we are guaranteed scandals and cover-ups. If we let our leaders know we can forgive their errors as long as they own up to them, then we will have both more honesty and better role models.

4. The surprising answer here is B. The Talmud states this as a necessary quality for a successful head of government. The idea is to keep your leader from becoming arrogant. See Q. 5.

5. Tough one. How do you balance authority with humility?

6. The Executive should be patriotic but worldly. Legislators should be worldly but patriotic. Judges should be multilingual.

7. I'll leave this one unanswered here, but would be pleased to hear the answers from your table.

Shabbat Shalom 

PS - Thanks to everyone who recently launched or renewed a Table Talk partnership.

PPS - Speaking of multiculturalism: one of the most unusual multicultural videos you've ever seen.

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