Oy vay! Has the Consultant Debunking Unit (CDU) seen its share of meshugge consultants! But when it comes to mishegoss, Rabbi David Baron takes the kugel! Baron, founder of Temple Shalom for the Arts, in Beverly Hills, California, is the author (with Lynette Padwa) of "Moses on Management: 50 Leadership Lessons from the Greatest Manager of All Time" (Pocket Books, 1999) .
According to Baron, Moses was practically the ultimate leader, "a very human manager who had to contend with the quintessential uncooperative staff — the 'stiff-necked' Israelites." But, on the other hand, the CDU has to ask, Was he really such a good manager? Doesn't success come more easily when God is on your side? To find out, the CDU contacted Rabbi David Roller of Ask A Rabbi.com.
Was Moses the manager of managers? "If I could make anyone in the Bible a manager in a company, Moses definitely would not be my first choice," Roller responds. "Would you hire a manager who failed to meet his ultimate goal because he let his temper get the best of him? Moses didn't make it to the Promised Land, because he smacked a rock and made it give water to him instead of nicely asking it to help, as God had told him to do. I'd rather have Abraham as a manager any day of the week. Not only did he make it to Israel, but he had descendants as numerous as the stars, and he founded monotheism as we know it."
Already, the CDU could feel itself getting tsetummelt. So, to get unfartootst, the CDU changed the question: Would Moses have made a good consultant? To find out, the CDU is going to put you to the test: Do you have what it takes to lead your people out of Egypt and into the Promised Land? Ask yourself, "Would I like a host of plagues to descend upon my company's competitors? Can I make the Red Sea of ink part on my firm's balance sheet? Does God talk to me through inanimate objects?" If you answered "yes" to one or more of those questions, then either God wants you to serve as a new-economy leader, or you are simply farblondjet.
Today's test consists of seven biblical passages on which Baron bases some monumental management messages. See if you can come up with the correct interpretation of each passage — or at least the same one that Baron did.
1. As [Moses] was tending his father-in-law's flock, "he gazed, and there was a bush all aflame, yet the bush was not consumed. Moses said, 'I must turn aside to look at this marvelous sight; why doesn't the bush burn up?' " The lesson is:
A. Put out small office fires before they become huge conflagrations.
B. Burn rate kills startups.
C. Keep an eye out for low-probability, high-impact events.
2. "Ask Pharaoh for freedom."
A. In big companies, the CEO usually thinks that he's related to God.
B. Some poor schmuck always gets stuck with thankless tasks.
C. You never know until you ask.
3. After the 10th plague, Pharaoh said, "Up, depart from among my people, you and the Israelites with you! ... Take also your flocks and your herds, as you said, and be gone!"
A. If you want to get anything done in your company, practice turning rivers into blood.
B. You're more likely to get your way if you bring your flocks and herds to the office.
C. See crisis as an opening door.
4. The Israelites said to Moses, "You have brought us out into this wilderness to starve to death!"
A. Smart leaders pack lots of Snickers bars for their team members.
B. How's the company cafeteria?
C. When you are a new manager, the rank and file may greet you with skepticism.
5. Moses' warning in God's name: "If you do not obey me ... I will wreak misery upon you — consumption and fever, which cause the eyes to pine and the body to languish."
A. If you thought "Chainsaw Al" Dunlop was tough, check out this Moses dude!
B. Tough leaders can cause their employees' eyes to pine and their bodies to languish.
C. Tell people the rules and the consequences of breaking them.
6. Moses issued a request to the Lord: "Let me know Your ways, that I may know You and continue in Your favor."
A. If you want to get ahead, you've got to be willing to kiss a little tochis.
B. If God is your mentor, you've got it made!
C. Check with your superiors regularly.
7. "The Lord said to Moses, 'Come unto Pharaoh' " ("Come" in the plural sense, as in "Come with me, with your brother Aaron, with the team we assemble").
A. If your boss has you on a hook and you don't know an answer, always speak in old-sounding English. No one will understand a word of it.
B. Henry Aaron should get more credit than Babe Ruth, in part because the Braves weren't as good a team as the Yankees.
C. Assemble your own "Team Moses" by looking "closely at whom God has already provided before turning to outsiders."
A version of this article appeared in the June 2000 issue of Fast Company magazine.