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Written by: Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks

Book review by: Chaplain LCDR Isaac (Yitzy) Rosenberg, USCGA

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks needs no introduction, but a review of his Lessons in Leadership is imperative. Having read it through many times, I find myself deeply touched, and I find that I have learned so much about what it takes to be a leader with diversity, which is particularly important for those that hold leadership positions in the U.S.  Military.

Sacks points out that to be a leader is a philosophy of life; it does not come with holding a title or position. No one is born a leader; leadership comes from skills learned. A leader encourages, influences, and empowers his team or fellows to accomplish different goals and, by taking responsibility not only for their own actions but also for the moral-spiritual state of the nation as a whole; as our Sages say, “kol Yisrael averim zeh bazeh”, all Jews are responsible for one another In this book, leadership traits and lessons are identified via the weekly parashah’s main character, where Rabbi Sacks’ approach is to compare them with personalities of modern history. He also states that the true challenge of leadership confronting the personalities of the Bible involves learning how to be an adaptive leader; adaptive leadership concerns how to change people’s attitudes and desires by anticipating challenges and identifying the causes. Rabbi Sacks gives examples of adaptive leadership on different parashiot:

Chukat: Miriam, Moses’ Friend — “Respect for diversity, care for the lowly and powerless as well as the powerful and great, and a willingness to go no faster than people can bear – these are three essential attributes of a leader, as Moses knew from experience, and as Joshua learned through his long apprenticeship to the great man himself.”

Pinchas: Lessons of a Leader — “Teachers are the unacknowledged builders of the future, and if a leader seeks to make lasting change, they must follow in the footsteps of Moses and become an educator. The leader as teacher using influence rather than power, spiritual and intellectual authority rather than coercive force – was one of the greatest contributions Judaism ever made to the moral horizons of humankind.”

Devarim: The Leader as Teacher — “Leaders learn. They read. They study. They take time to familiarize themselves with the world of ideas. Only thus do they gain the perspective to be able to see further and clearer than others. To be a Jewish leader means spending time to study both Torah and chochmah: chochmah to understand the world as it is, Torah to understand the world as it ought to be. Leaders should never stop learning. That is how they grow and teach others to grow with them.”

From the book, I learned that leaders need three kinds of support:

1. Allies who will fight alongside them
2. A team to whom they can delegate
3. A person they can confess their doubts and worries to, who will listen without an agenda other than being supportive, and who will give the courage, confidence, and strength to carry on, which is the Chaplain’s job

Rabbi Sacks was known as a rabbi, philosopher, theologian, and author, but I also learned that he was a soul
searching for wisdom regardless of distance or difficulty.

*Teaching Resources:


**Covenant & Conversation:

Originally published in the Pesach 2022 issue of The Jewish American Warrior.