As Head of School, I often receive suggestions for books to read about leadership. These books commend diverse styles of leadership: lead from the front, lead from behind; lead by role modeling, lead by innovation; lead by vision, lead by consensus. This week’s parshah — Parshat Naso — generates a teaching about leadership that I think is unique, and is not found in the leadership books I have read. This week we practice the middah:
“Lead, by first making an offering.”
The context for the teaching is a description of a ceremony in which of the leaders of the tribes of Israel brought offerings for use in the Mishkan – in the “dwelling place” of God. One by one, the leaders of each tribe stepped forth to offer gold, silver, fine flour, oil, incense, and animals. Each leader offered up valuable possessions for the sake of the community.
The notion that leadership is demonstrated through acts of offering is fascinating to me, and I wonder about how it applies to all forms of leadership including parenting and teaching. Leadership as offering can mean offering resources to help others be creative. Leadership as offering can mean passing on knowledge, experience, and ideas. Leadership as offering can mean helping pave paths and clear obstacles so that the community can thrive. Leadership as offering can mean finding opportunities for each member of the community to participate, learn, and succeed. Leadership as offering can mean empowering other leaders, who in turn can lead by making offerings.
This Shabbat may we all find ways to lead by making an offering.