LEADERSHIP: DREAMING BEFORE OTHERS

"It's really hard to design products by focus groups. A lot of times, people don't know what they want until you show it to them."

- Steve Jobs

There is something undemocratic in Steve Jobs' words. The innovator knows what people want before they know it themselves.

Moshe faces a quagmire at the end of last week's parsha. He had won the support of the Jewish people to challenge Pharaoh. Yet, his first sally before Pharaoh with signs and demands had ended in utter failure. He made the slavery situation worse for the Jewish people. Moshe, in a fit of despondency, replies to God's request that he appear before Pharaoh again with the argument, "If the Jews no longer listen to me, how will Pharaoh listen to me?"

Rabbi Ovadia Seforno interprets God's reply with an insight into leadership. The pasuk reads, "Hashem spoke to Moshe and Aaron and commanded them regarding the Children of Israel and regarding Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to take the Children of Israel out of the land of Egypt." The verse is unclear - what does it mean to "command them regarding..." R. Seforno explains that Moshe and Aaron were made leaders in regard to redemption, such that both the Jewish people and Pharaoh would be forced to accept it even against their will. 

God's solution to Moshe's conundrum is to get past the present. Moshe is granted permission to lead - which in this case means working for something that the Jewish people themselves don't yet know that they need. The Jewish people are not yet ready for words of redemption - they cannot hear such ideas. Yet, Moshe must think in those terms and lead toward that vision. 

Often, we get locked in the present. We see intractable problems and we become despondent. Knowing that the future contains opportunities that we cannot know in the present can be a basis for hope. Leadership is helping others see those opportunities.