If you’re in a position of leadership, and you feel satisfied for long stretches of time, then you may not really be leading. While leaders know how to celebrate achievements, they are always looking ahead to the next unresolved issue or new opportunity. Good leaders are genuinely positive about the work that they do and inspire others with their optimism. But, they are not satisfied with the status quo for too long.
According to one commentator on this week’s Torah reading, Vayeshev (Gen. 37:1-40:23), the Biblical patriarch, Jacob, is rebuked by God for trying to settle down. As Rashi writes on Gen. 37:2: “This righteous person seeks to dwell in tranquility. Said the Holy One, ‘What is prepared for the righteous in the world to come is not sufficient for them, but they seek [also] to dwell in tranquility in this world!’”
What’s the argument behind this comment? Jacob, as God’s designated heir to the covenant and leader of the Jewish people, will have ultimate, eternal tranquility in the afterlife. But in this life, his unending task is to be God’s instrument through which the covenant is fulfilled, and that requires Jacob to have a mentality of movement and not stasis, or settling down.
At its core, then, leadership means thinking and working toward the next challenge, even when you find yourself thinking: “Wouldn’t it be nice to settle down a bit?” So, ask yourself, are you satisfied with your achievements? If so, by all means celebrate it, but even as you’re doing so, focus on the next issue that is bothering you. Just as oysters turn irritants into pearls, there is another gem of an idea just waiting for your creative leadership.
Rabbi Hayim Herring