Thesis of the Book
The undeniable strength of great leaders has always governed world history. From the religious point of view, Moses is shown as such a special leader in the Holy Bible. His actions, perception, and knowledge make him a role model for current leaders, as well as for future generations and their ambitious leaders. In Moses and the Journey to Leadership, Professor Norman J. Cohen provides the qualities that should be cultivated and nurtured by the one who pursues leadership skills by using the stories of the Torah. Moses is indeed a historical phenomenon that embodies organizational, leadership, governmental, and resource utilization features that are closely intertwined with the needs of today’s society.
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With that said, Norman Cohen, in his Moses and the Journey to Leadership, aims at representing and perpetuating the figure of Moses as the paradigm for future leaders to learn from through the in-depth exploration in his compelling narrative.
By following the sequence of the biblical story, Cohen narrates the transformative events in Moses’ life to draw lessons with an emphasis on the leadership. The notable parts of the book include a reflection on the linkage between the humility of Moses and his leadership strength (Cohen, 2007, p. 20). Besides, the author analyses the correlation between leaders and their followers, the importance of determination in leadership, facing and surmounting insecurities, as well as the urgent need for the successors’ recognition and training. With this in mind, Moses and the Journey to Leadership is a skillfully balanced combination of both strategic and theological aspects.
The book explores leadership qualities through the prism of a leader’s potential, vision, power, as well as burdens and challenges. It is valuable for not only suggesting those strategies but also for giving a professional insight into the religious background of Moses and his ultimate challenge of leading the Israelites from Egypt to the land of promise, Canaan. As intended by the author, Moses can touch and teach each of us, as he was obliged to handle changes and assuage people’s expectations, as well as face ambiguity and conflicts where management skills were crucial. As a genuine devotee of Midrashic literature, Norman Cohen claims that the Bible is a significant portrait of leadership and is suitable for modern Jewish and secular communities.
The thesis of the book is based upon the detailed examination of Moses’ life story. Cohen aims at identifying Moses as the most important character and leadership model within the biblical text. It is indeed a successful approach, as Moses’ story serves as a basis for examining the journey to leadership strategies. His story develops through the chapters, as it highlights the key aspect that directly defines him as a leader: “his life is not his own” (Cohen, 2007, p. 3).
The author calls him with confidence a “hero of the Bible,” who changed the course of human history with his own efforts, as he was a savior of people in slavery (Cohen, 2007, p. 2). According to Cohen, this aspect is critical and has to be admitted by all leaders. There is no denying that the leader’s life is as equally important as the life of people he is guiding, as they are inherently intertwined and united by the common mission.
The beginning of the book refrains from the concretization and exploration of leadership notions and practices. Cohen instead analyzes the childhood and development of Moses, emphasizing the aspects that influenced his leadership skills culminating in the defining moment of his life when he risked it saving fellow Israelites. The author states that Moses taking care of Jethro’s sheep refers to his role as a future leader of God’s people (Cohen, 2007, p. 16).
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The writer still manages to list and study the qualities needed for the leader. Cohen thoroughly examines the figure of Moses, as the embodiment of the exemplary leader, emphasizing that leaders are not born but are formed throughout challenging life experiences.
Cohen undoubtedly endowed Moses and the Journey to Leadership with the strengths. The book is significant for its strong biblical background. The leadership strategies revealed by Cohen are resistant and persuasive due to their basis of the life and stories of Moses, Hebrew prophet, and leader. Moses’ preceding experience results in inevitably knowing what must be done. Thus, he progressively emerged into a visionary leader to inspire people to follow the mission statement disclosed by God to Moses. Besides, the Jewish Midrash traditions are widely used by the author in order to give an example of the life and development of the prominent biblical leader Moses.
Norman Cohen made a great contribution with his book. It is presented not only as of the one person’s subjective opinion, compared to the modern leadership literature, but also a broader insight on this issue from the religious and historical perception. With such an approach, this book is suitable for everyone who aims at obtaining leadership qualities. However, this might help to learn how to face and manage conflicts and struggles not only for leaders but also for ordinary individuals that aim to become stronger in terms of everyday challenges.
Despite its significance, the book also contains several weak points. Apart from analyzing the life of Moses, as a successful leader, Professor Cohen provides short examples of the modern leaders, the Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) throughout Moses and the Journey to Leadership. Moses accordingly undertakes the role of the “biblical CEO”, as he became a leader responsible for transforming God’s mission. The writer’s approach seems a little distracting since it differs from the initial purpose of the book. It might be a better option to separate those modern CEOs’ parts into a different chapter, or even a book, analyzing today’s world leadership situation.
Another weakness of the book is the rabbinic explication provided by Cohen. Its style and dynamics are distracting, as the linkage between Moses and examination of leadership might seem tenuous. For instance, the author includes a broad examination of the words and their root meanings from the Hebrew language. With that said, such comprehensive insight on the rabbinic tradition distracts the reader from the central concept of the book, which is the journey to becoming a leader.
By reading Cohen’s work, I expected to learn the key elements of the leadership strategies, as well as to testify the book’s relevance for the ordinary reader. Hence, despite the strong use of Jewish Midrash traditions, Moses and the Journey to Leadership is still a valuable piece from the leadership perspective. I believe it is crucial for being not only one side’s opinion, as the common modern literature is, but also a text with a powerful religious undertone. Such a decision to explore the issue of the leadership practice with a biblical basis makes this book applicable to everyone with a strong will to nurture leadership qualities, including today’s and future generations.
With Moses and the Journey to Leadership, Norman Cohen managed to accomplish a significant work that helps to handle the leadership struggles through the prism of the model biblical figure Moses. His example is indeed a powerful message to those who are called to lead. With its strength and weakness, Cohen’s book has a great potential for the representatives of different beliefs, despite its strong Jewish Midrash basis. Considering its diverse perception and enduring relevance, Moses and the Journey to Leadership paved the path for the accountants, managers, economists, and many other fields of the modern world that necessarily require leadership skills.
Cohen, N. (2007). Moses and the journey to leadership. Woodstock, VT: Jewish Lights Publishing.