Moses goes to business school

Professor Shlomo Ben-Hur, of the IMD business school in Lausanne, and his colleague Karsten Jonsen have written a paper on leadership, based on the characteristics of Moses. They believe that there is room within the sphere of business and management for studying leadership through the framework of stories like that of Moses and other spiritual leaders.

Moses is an outstanding leadership figure. They quote from Henry George’s adaptation of the creeds of Maimonides:

To lead into freedom a people long crushed by tyranny; to discipline and order such a mighty host; to harden them into fighting men, before whom warlike tribes quailed and walled cities went down; to repress discontent and jealousy and mutiny […] require some towering character blending in highest expression the qualities of politician, patriot, philosopher, and statesman.

Ben-Hur and Jonsen write about Moses far-from-straightforward leadership journey, noting how he was shaped by various cultural influences: he combined his upbringing as an Egyptian royal and his heritage as a Hebrew slave.

Eventually he became an ‘accidental leader’, combining four distinct styles of leadership:

  • the visionary
  • the shepherd
  • the teacher
  • the servant

Ben-Hur and Jonsen suggest that ‘we should aspire to manage the creative tensions between the roles of a visionary and a shepherd and between those of a teacher and a servant.’

The complete article was published in 2012 in The Journal of Management Development; a shorter reflection from Professor Ben-Hur is available here.

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