Great leaders face difficult decisions on a daily basis. Whilst it is easy to criticise the actions of any White House or Downing Street incumbent, we cannot know our own responses if faced with those quandaries.
The Greek playwright Sophocles told the story of a leader, King Creon, who made a disastrous decision. In trying to educate the people Thebes, he forbade a certain rebel to have a burial, threatening to execute anyone who buried the body. The problem was that corpse belonged to a son of the late King Oedipus, and their daughter Antigone (who the play is named after) buried the body regardless. It quickly turned into nothing less than the proverbial Greek Tragedy, resulting in the suicides of Antigone, Creon’s son and Creon’s wife.
The laws of Moses recommend that leadership is tempered with both love and limits. We simply cannot behave as we would like, when we would like. Unlike the law of King Creon, there is no room for leaving corpses on public display overnight and they must all be buried rather than leaving them hanging on the gallows (Deuteronomy 21:23); they too are made in the image of God. When you go to war there are rules for respecting the human rights of captives (Ibid. 21:11). When faced with leadership challenges in your home with regards to a hated spouse, their children must still be given full inheritance rights (Ibid. 21:17). Similar temperance must be shown with regards to how we behave when finding a bird’s nest (22:6), building a new house (22:8) or when certain kinds of slaves seek refuge with you from their punishing masters (23:16).
When we take this theory closer to home, there is much to think on. We face leadership challenges every day, in many arenas. How we behave towards those with whom we have an unequal power relationship, whether it is employees, children or those whom we are responsible for? How do we behave towards people who are seeking our help? Do we literally ‘hang people out to dry’ in our conversations about them, whether it is verbally betraying people we know, or deeply disrespecting them in their absence? We may not literally leave their corpse hanging in the village square, but we may effectively do that with their reputation.
Yesterday I heard the teaching that ‘we don’t see the world as it is, but we see the world as we are’. In other words, we are so steeped in our own internal reality that we project an immensely powerful energy that literally affects the way we see things.
One way to harness this energy from a leadership potential is to see how we criticise authority figures, and to take this as our starting point. What is the President doing wrong? What is the Prime Minister doing incorrectly? How is a Great Dictator behaving abominably? ….and how do their actions resemble some of our own? This work may not easy but it can lead to a path of immense light.
HOW TO APPLY THIS IN THE BOARDROOM: What is your leadership style? Benevolence, dictatorship or somewhere in between? How can you bring more love to your decisions? How can you bring in more respect to see others as made in the image of God? Are there sparks of Divinity in your working style?
HOW TO APPLY THIS ON THE MEDITATION CUSHION: Reflect on this question: Where are you lacking the essential quality of Hesed, lovingkindness, in your life?
HOW TO APPLY THIS ON THE YOGA MAT: How are you relating to your body? Are you holding harsh thoughts against it and not respecting it, or sending it negative thoughts (e.g. poor body image)? How can you show stronger ‘internal leadership’, e.g. ensuring that you carry out enough discipline with your exercise/yoga regime, providing your body with nourishing food and thoughts?
Based on Parsha Ki Teitzei.