- “Do not forget what it is to be a sailor because of being a captain yourself.” – Tanzanian proverb
The world has tasted great leaders in the past. But one of the greatest among those greats was Moses. We learn about him from the history of the Israelites as captured in their scriptures, as he is immortalised in their worship. As a matter of fact, he is quoted every day.
And Christianity places him at the Transfiguration of Christ, thus accentuating his leadership as truly divine. He was the leader who ruled his people so divinely he was labelled a prophet. He was the man who liberated the Israelites from Egypt at a time when one of the greatest civilization the world has ever seen was at its peak. And he did so without shedding the blood of his kinsmen. This feat places Moses above all the ‘great’ leaders the world has ever embraced.
Moses grew up in Egypt’s royal court with full knowledge that he was an outsider, and specifically low-born. The ancient royalty of Egypt was an ego-laden dynasty: from perceiving themselves as the special ones to envisioning themselves as divine, to actually commissioning research into how they and their subjects could live for all eternity so that they could perpetuate their reign over them forever.
Ancient Egypt had a strong belief in the after-life, with a hook that life has to continue for all eternity with the existing systems and structure they had in their civilisation; such that the royals would forever be atop the food chain. This was the reason for the in-breeding cultured by the royal family.
Such was the egoistic environment Moses grew up in. The royal family was generous to him in every physical way. They educated him in their arts and taught him everything they had learned about how to govern a people – which translated for them as ‘how to stay on top of the food chain’.
Mentally, they never let him forget that he was a low-born and specifically a slave. And Moses, who had speech challenges and was probably teased about it, expended his energy as a good student. His promise to himself was he would rise to the top. This aspiration would take learning as much as he could, and learning more than he could, so that he would know more than them and then he could rise above them and they would respect him.
Think about the silly jokes that reached the ears of Moses. They probably could not understand how a people as strong as the Jews would allow themselves to be enslaved. If the reverse were to be the case, they would have long liberated themselves and become the lords.
These taunts served as Moses’ inspiration to give the best of himself to study. We can be sure he was even dared to strive a little to liberate his people. “Who made you a prince and a judge over us will be the chorus in your ears,” they taunted him. The Egyptians were confident in their mastery of governance. And they were right, for their words came true when Moses tried to rally his people to free themselves.
We can be sure Moses accepted the challenge. And it was probably the only joke he spat at them. That does not mean he was in any way disloyal to them. On the contrary, he had a fulsome respect for them. His admiration for them nevertheless spurred him on. And as he learned to understand governance his self-esteem grew, and his determination to actually liberate the Israelites grew. He actually tried – and failed miserably.
He had falsely assumed that the peoples’ hunger for freedom was as deep as his. The Israelites wanted freedom, but it had not sunk deep to become a hunger as it had in Moses. He had all the logical arguments, thus he was pleasantly surprised when, truly, the people questioned his authority over them. He had learned everything in the books, except the biggest secret of the royals – their understanding of the ‘emotional/spiritual quotient’ of the governed.
It would take Moses another forty years, wandering in the wilderness, to understand the ‘emotional-spiritual quotient’ of the governed. He learned he had to become a far better person for the masses to trust him. And most of the lessons were learned from tending sheep. A profession in shepherding enlightened him about how the gregarious social instinct in sheep resembled that of humans.
We should always remember Moses had had the best of education, and was well-versed in the application of scientific methods to events and concepts. We can conclude his observations in tending sheep gave him a depth of knowledge about how to lead. And his conscious encounter with God, which he developed into a personal and affective relationship, further gave him a proper perspective of the values, attitudes and behaviour of the people he had once tried to liberate.
Moses had learned from the Egyptian royal court the importance of spirituality in governance; and given the opportunity he nurtured his relationship with God so deeply, the Spirit of God directed most of his decisions and actions. His spirituality was so high that scripture writes this about his death: “Since then no prophet has arisen in Israel like Moses, whom the Lord knew face to face. He had no equal in all the signs and wonders the Lord sent him to perform in the land of Egypt against Pharaoh and all his servants and against all his land, and for the might and the terrifying power that Moses exhibited in the sight of all Israel”.
Moses came to the conclusion that to improve the lot of his people, he had to understand the least among his people. And the process empowered him to break down the selfishness of a people, by offering them a framework that was more deontological (related to duty and obligation) in nature so they could “act without concern for personal outcomes; to act with non-attachment, and not from ego but rather with duty toward others”.
To achieve this, he went back to his people with the name of the God of their fathers, the Lord God. This approach evoked and motivated in the people an awareness of their “spiritual nature from which emerges character and conduct in a seamless whole, which leads to an embrace of responsibility to themselves and to each other.”
Research recognises that leaders with a high spiritual quotient have heightened self-awareness, as well as an awareness of others and their environment which often energises them to be holistic in their approach. This is what Moses had, so much so that he did not merely free people but also embedded the price of freedom and justice deeply into their culture. To top it off he instructed and dignified in his people an efficacious attitude, which he charged them to pass on to every generation.
All in all, he left his people with a leadership mentality. Yes, he prepared Joshua son of Nun to physically succeed him, but at the time of his death Moses had braced his people to lead the world. And while many leaders try to create dynasties about them, Moses’ immediate successor was unrelated to him. In fact, he came from a different tribe. Such was the depth of meritocracy he practiced.
All in all, Moses had honed his intelligence, emotional (social) and spiritual quotients to a convergence where he had become wise. Being wise is not splashed out in the spectacular. As an unknown author puts it: “Wisdom is not a flash of inspiration”.
It involves a daily grind of seeking the most important knowledge on how to live a good life, gaining an understanding of how to use that knowledge for good, and to use the good in such a manner that whatever you do will endure beyond yourself and last for the good of all and the good of our humanity. We are talking about individuals seeking virtues, finding them and living them in truth, by practicing goodness and appreciating beauty in all their encounters. That was the psychology of Moses, a far greater leader…
Kodwo Brumpon is an author, a life coach and a philanthropist who inspires individuals, groups and organisations to think and feel that which is true by helping them to positively respond to that which is beautiful whilst nudging them to let goodness govern their actions.
Comments, suggestions and requests should be sent to him at [email protected]