Perhaps one of the strongest drives within man’s ego is the desire to be the leader, the head — be it of the smallest concern or the largest of organizations. But when that ego and desire are so prominent as to preclude even the notion of others participating in the organization, it can be a destructive force.
On Shabbos Parshas Vayeishev 5741, the Rebbe addressed this subject, decrying its consequences in the obstruction of the growth and expansion of Jewish organizations:
Communication and cooperation are vital to the success of any enterprise. Yet such is the human ego, that these necessary tools are all too often precluded by the arrogance and selfish greed of the participants in the venture. A vivid, if troubling, example of this, is the structure of many Jewish organizations. In order to be successful, an organization must have the necessary leadership, guiding and directing its work.
A fairly common situation is the organization which, since its inception, has been led by one man, an individual who has worked hard and unsparingly, and successfully built up the organization. When the time comes for the organization to build further, expand and grow, new blood is needed, extra hands required, and additional leadership necessary. Obviously, the sensible and logical step would be to recruit new talent for the administration. Because of the founder’s (or present director’s) ego and jealous possessiveness however, he is often unwilling to share the administration and its accompanying power and prestige. For to do so would mean that he is no longer the sole head. No more will all the kudos and plaudits go to him alone; the credit would be shared with another. And this the ego cannot allow.
There is no difference between the situation in which the original power has been invested in one person, or in a group. The concept is the same. Each of the persons now in authority, no matter how they may disagree on other matters, are united on one point: on no account must another be allowed to enter their ranks and diminish their status.
Try if you can, and imagine what goes through a director’s mind at such times. Think of the appalling consequences (appalling to him, that is) such leadership-sharing could generate. For example, one of the major mediums of publicity are articles in newspapers, with the mandatory accompanying picture of the beaming director. Imagine then, what would eventuate if another were to share, albeit even in a junior position, his office of authority. His picture would not be the only one in the newspaper! All the newspaper’s readers would then know that he is not the sole wielder of power in the organization. Just possibly, if a proviso could be made ensuring that the picture’s caption would always clearly state who is the founder and mainstay of the organization — it might be tolerable. But who can guarantee such a thing? Not always is a newspaper willing to print such details, and then just the picture would remain. And that would never do. . .
The real tragedy resulting from one man’s ego is that ultimately it is always the organization which suffers, which does not grow, and which ultimately stagnates. The presiding officer is not blind to this; he realizes it well. But it will make no difference. The organization can suffer, it can sink into a bog of routine, and even deteriorate — but all power and authority must remain concentrated in his hands. But while he may be prepared to sacrifice the potential of the organization on the altar of his own ego, others will not necessarily be so magnanimous. So he must resort to subterfuge, denials, silence — all to ensure that none will know what his intransigence has cost the organization.
By not allowing another to share in the leadership, the founder or present director truly believes that he is safeguarding his own position and preeminence. The irony of it is, however, that the reverse is true; for by allowing others into the organizational structure, one’s prestige and standing can only be enhanced. For consider: Previously one was the head of (at best) a middle sized concern. Now, through the infusion of new talent and leadership ability, one has the possibility of heading a larger, everexpanding organization. And further: Previously one was just a “king.” Now, being able to manage others, one can be a king of kings! But such an advantage is never allowed to materialize; for while it is true that one will be a king of kings, simultaneously, the new people in the organization will be kings. And jealousy rears its ugly head, and says — never!
One would have thought that such a mode of conduct was a relic of the past, dead and buried. But unfortunately, it seems to be alive and well, flourishing mightily. Truly, it is worthy of the citizens of Sodom, that ancient city of corruption!
So great is the ego, that such people are not content to jealously safeguard their own domains, but must destroy anyone who would intrude. Should someone be so haplessly foolhardy as to attempt to rectify the situation, he is met with fury and self-righteous ire. The accuser becomes the accused, and those who would condemn their organizations to perpetual stagnation become the champions of their suddenly beleaguered empires. It is the reformer, who has the foresight to try to broaden the organization, who is labeled as destroyer and saboteur of institutions; and his ‘‘guilt” is proclaimed to the degree that the worst punishment is imagined too good for him.
Yet, deep in the director’s innermost being, there lies the knowledge that the organization is suffering because of him and his inability to accept the necessity of others sharing his coveted position and its accompanying honor. It must and does bother him. At the end of a day, as he prepares to go to sleep, his power-hunger, ego, and evil inclination, are stilled and at rest. Then his better side asserts itself, and there enters the thought that things cannot continue as they are, and he must change. Unfortunately however, the next morning, when the evil inclination returns in full strength, all good intentions fall by the wayside, and the old excuses and rationalizations dominate.
Fool! New people can only enhance your position!
Let then the truth be told to such a person Know, it is through Divine Providence that you have been placed in a position of authority in the organization. While in the past you may have worked ceaselessly and unsparingly, and seen the labors of your hands bear fruit, the ultimate goal is not to allow the organization to stagnate in its position, however good that may be. It must grow; and growth demands additional hands. From such growth, you too, far from being harmed, will benefit. But you must realize that refusal to do so thwarts the true goal and true benefit — a situation which cannot, must not, be allowed to arise.
This abysmal state of affairs is not new. For all too many years now, organizations have been held back by the selfish, short sighted greed of a few individuals. And the amazing part of all is that there have been no protests, no condemnations, no hue and cry raised!
An oft-stated excuse is: Jewish organizations are not alone in this practice; many other institutions and corporations conduct themselves in exactly the same fashion. Very true. But Judaism does not mutely follow the majority. We are a G-dly folk, apart and separate — “We shall be differentiated, I and Your people, from all the peoples that are upon the face of the earth.” And within Jewry itself, religious organizations must follow only the dictates of Torah, even when they run counter to the present trend. It is they, within the ranks of Jewry itself, who carry the banner and distinction of being the chosen people.
A note of caution is in order here. The above does not grant unbridled license with which to attack an organization; especially those who work in the organization itself. Nor does this note of caution apply only to the particular problem discussed above, but, as we shall see, to all facets of the organization.
It is not an uncommon tendency to criticize and find fault with one’s fellow workers, be they above or below oneself in the hierarchy of the organization. Although such criticisms contain elements of truth they may also contain the potential to destroy the organization. No one person is a separate entity unto himself; his words and actions have repercussions for those around him.
We recognize the fact that there are indeed faults to be found. But before rushing headlong to criticize, condemn, and denounce, it would be wise to first examine oneself. Every person has his own job and function, and his first and primary responsibility is to ensure that it is properly carried out. If someone has fulfilled his own tasks to the utmost perfection (and who will be so bold as to so claim), then perhaps he can mix into another’s business. But until then, he must first ensure that his own work is done properly and fully.
To be more specific, it is common for the administration and the employees to find fault with each other, a situation which leads to discontent, causing a decrease in effort, or even complete cessation of work, on the part of the disgruntled party. Very understandable. But think for a moment: Because you see faults in others — does this give you carte blanche to avoid your own responsibilities? You have your own sacred tasks, and it is your duty to fulfill them to the best of your ability. And they do not include wasting precious time in examining another’s record.
G-d forbid that a person should use another’s shortcomings as an excuse to shirk his own duties to the organization.
By Divine Providence people find themselves in the organization, and they dare not ignore their sacred tasks, the ramifications of which they cannot know. For it is no mere business or corporation in which they are working, free to leave whenever something happens contrary to their will. It is a Jewish organization, dedicated to a holy cause; and who can take upon himself the awesome responsibility of abandoning that cause?
But what if the employees find it impossible to keep on working under such an administration? There are, however, different ways of rectifying the situation. The proper method is not to wage a bitter campaign, or to conduct a “revolution.” Instead, the correct way is to settle differences peaceably, pointing out deficiencies and suggested solutions in dialogue or memoranda. But under no circumstances should they create strife or disorder, thereby placing the existence of the organization in jeopardy.
May it be G-d’s will that all who work for an organization, quickly do that which is necessary to ensure its continued well-being and growth. And may they, together with all of us, the “hosts of the L-rd,” proceed to our Holy Land in the redemption through our righteous Moshiach.
Source: Sichos In English