Jim Collins piloted a groundbreaking study in how good companies became great companies. The book describing the research and results of this study is entitled Good to Great. In 2003, Collins wrote an article in which he described his list of “the ten greatest CEOs of all time.” Here’s what he says about great leaders. Think of Moses’ personality and career as you read this (the emphases are mine):
Great CEOs build organizations that thrive long after they're gone, making it impossible to judge their performance until they've been out of office at least ten years. That criterion—legacy—was one of four I used to winnow a universe of more than 400 CEOs… [Other included] impact (presiding over innovations—whether technical or managerial—that changed things outside the company's walls), resilience (leading the company through a major transformation or crisis)...These are the qualities we need in our community leaders these days: people who are deeply connected to the Jewish people – our history, our destiny, our covenant with God, and our mission; people who focus on the legacy they will leave; people who are humble and step up to the plate for the sake of the community; people who see that they serve the community.
So what, exactly, made these ten so great? Strikingly, many of them never thought of themselves as CEO material. The second-greatest CEO on the list initially refused the job on the grounds that he wasn't qualified. No. 9 described herself as "scared stiff." No. 5 was once told flatly, "You will never be a leader." Striking, too, is the sheer scale of their time frames. Surrounded by pressures to manage for the quarter, they managed for the quarter-century—or even three-quarters of a century…
Yet if one thing defines these ten giants, it was their deep sense of connectedness to the organizations they ran. Unlike CEOs who see themselves principally as members of an executive elite—an increasingly mobile club whose members measure their pay and privileges against other CEOs'—this group's ethos was a true corporate ethos, in the original, nonbusiness sense of the word corporate: "united or combined into one."
The great leaders are like Moses: humble, committed to Judaism, wish to serve God and the community, and see their service as a privilege. Fortunately, we are blessed to have many such leaders among us. May we have many more, and may all our institutions be blessed with the courage and conviction to search out such leaders, and reserve positions of leadership for people of heart and wisdom.
© Rabbi Amy Scheinerman