Joseph and Daniel: Unfolding Leadership Theory in Tanach
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For centuries, empirical research on leadership has tried to pinpoint which traits and behaviors denote a good leader in order to reproduce them. Good leadership, which is understood experientially, is not always easily quantifiable. Nevertheless, Tanach provides stories about leaders that challenge the reader to examine what formulas yield effective leadership. An emphatic semblance surfaces from juxtaposing the protagonists in the accounts of Joseph (21992309) from the Book of Breishit and Daniel (33173390) from the Book of Daniel. By highlighting the distinct similarities between these two accounts, it becomes apparent that both of these boys emerged as leaders of the nation of Israel through their hardships in foreign lands. While these two storylines unmistakably intertwine and parallel one another, there are several striking discrepancies that warrant further examination. The two leaders differ in the degrees to which their personal restraints were successful, family dynamics were present, and the extent to which they possessed the trait of humility. Examining Servant Leadership Theory and the way in which their differing leadership techniques emerge through these discrepancies will exhibit how Daniel is an intentional leadership sequel to the story of Joseph to set a new example for Israel’s second exile over 1,000 years later. Importantly, such a narrative sequence in which one biblical leader learns these quantifiable leadership strategies from his predecessor speaks to several timeless leadership trends. Just as Daniel learned from Joseph, surely we can extract these same lessons for modern Jewish leaders today.
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