Servant Leadership Lessons from Jethro and Moses

Sharing is good

“The Torah portion for this week, Yitro, teaches us that we must look beyond the superficial qualities when it comes to choosing a good leader. It helps us understand that there are certain criteria for leadership that transcend political, ethnic, and socioeconomic boundaries.” Thus begins a dvar Torah on parsha Yitro by Rabbi Sharon L. Sobol.

Yitro (Jethro) as leader

Yitro (Jethro) is the father-in-law of Moses and a Midianite priest. A seasoned leader, he makes a great mentor an coach for Moses. He is willing to share his experiences and knowledge without judging Moses for his lack of experience.

Moses as leader

Though inexperienced, Moses shows leadership qualities. He is a reluctant leader who does not let his ego get in the way of making good decisions. He listens and learns from those around him and doesn’t hesitate when Yitro suggests that he appoint judges to help him with the responsibilities of leading his people.

Leadership Development Training Manual

Exodus chapter 18, Rabbi Sobol point out, is in effect a training manual for leadership development.

  1. Go where they are (Exodus 18:1-6)
  2. Care for others (Exodus 18:7)
  3. Celebrate their accomplishments (Exodus 18:9-12)
  4. Learn to excel at providing feedback (Exodus 18:13-23)
  5. Learn to excel at giving advice in a nonjudgmental manner (Exodus 18:19-23)
  6. Empower leadership by sharing responsibility (Exodus 18:13-18; 21-23)
  7. Delegate responsibility wisely (Exodus 18:21-22
  8. Be transparent and share your wins (Exodus 18:8)
  9. Learn to receive feedback  (Exodus 18:24-26)
  10. Implement change when necessary. (Exodus 18:24-26)
  11. Be humble

Parsha Yitro is a reminder that when we choose leaders we must do more than assess their stances on political issues; we must assess their character and ascertain whether they have the traits needed to work with others and be of service to all people.