The Ideals of Leadership

In Living a Life that Matters, Rabbi Harold Kushner quotes James Fallows:

“What makes an effective leather, whether in politics or business? What characterizes the man or woman whom others are eager to follow? …[A] sense of wholeness, the feeling that the person is all of one piece, that there is a consistency to him, that he will be the same person tomorrow that he is today and will apply the same value system to one question that he does to all questions.”

When I read this, my mind immediately went to some of my characters. Anselm and Joshua are both natural leaders that people trust with their lives—despite the fact that they are different in many respects. Anselm is an introvert—in fact, he’s famous for the length of time he spent living without the contact of other vampires—but Joshua is quite the extrovert; he’s famous for his charm and people skills.

Anselm wonders why his friends keep turning to him to be their leader, and why they follow him so unquestioningly, and Joshua tells him that it’s because he isn’t attempting to be a leader. Joshua feels that the people who make the best leaders are humble men who have leadership thrust upon them.

But while that answer is a good one, it’s not a universal one. It doesn’t apply to Joshua, who did pursue leadership and who likes his position as leader (so well, in fact, he’s the longest-serving Erujtah in history).

But Fallows’ answer applies to both men quite well. Anselm states in the first book that he “always does what’s right, regardless of the cost.” He holds to that principal so strongly, even Micah refers to it as “his personal motto.” No one questions Anselm’s integrity or values, because they’re the same as they’ve always been. He is a man who has a strong sense of right and wrong—even as he admits that his sense of right and wrong doesn’t necessarily align with everyone else’s.

“I can see that some people are worthy of life, and some are not. God forgive me, but this isn’t the first time I’ve separated the chaff from the wheat. I like to think of myself as a good person—of doing good things—but I am not a good person the way you are. Not even close.”

Joshua makes this comment about him:

“Anselm, God love him, is sometimes a bit… I’m not sure if ‘formal’ or ‘repressive’ is the right word. I trust him beyond a shadow of a doubt to do what’s right, but sometimes people need to do the wrong thing for the right reasons, and he won’t.”

Joshua’s sense of right and wrong is a bit different than Anselm’s, but is completely predictable and reliable. When Kalyn asks him if he thinks it’s immoral to manipulate humans (specifically politicians and diplomats) for the benefit of all Canichmehah, he responds:

“[L]et’s say it’s a moral gray area. I would do it if I had to, for the benefit of others, but generally I prefer to not take by force what I can get with charm.”

And that pretty much sums up Joshua. While he tries to stay within the bounds of ethics, he does believe in the greater good equation. And he’s famous for taking a stand for what he believes is right, even if it requires a fight or might cause him to lose his position.

The Convening in 1939 was one of the most continuous ever recorded. While everyone was in agreement that every effort should be made to rescue Orunameh from the advancing Nazis (and, in the case of partitioned Poland, from the Russians), there was bitter disagreement on the issue of evacuating [humans who were not Yaechahre]. Many were afraid if the Council used its influence to obtain too many documents, or forged too many, our government contacts would shut down all requests, and some of our people might not have the means to escape. “Orunameh first” became the unofficial motto of many at that Convening.

Master Joshua and a number of other people, however, advocated that no person seeking our help should be turned away.

Immediately following the Convening, Master Joshua contacted Erujah throughout Europe and told them if they wished to help any non-Orunameh escape, they could Accept them as Yaechahre, and the Council would guarantee their safe escape. While this was perfectly legal—an Eruj may Accept any person he or she so chooses—there was an immediate uproar from both the dissenting portion of the Council and from the Yaechahre council.

Master Joshua is famously remembered for replying to an anonymous newspaper editorial (rumored to have been submitted by one of the Council members) which accused him of overstepping his authority. “Kiss my ass. If you don’t like it, vote me out. I will not rescind [my instructions].”

It was not until after the War that Joshua admitted he had secretly been feeding [Canichmehah escorting Jews out of Europe] legal papers, which he himself forged, in order to facilitate the escape of Jews from Europe. He denies knowing how many Jews he helped escape by providing papers, but estimates are between 500 and 1,000, with most historians favoring the higher number.

This was certainly not the only time in Joshua’s reign as Erujtah that he flaunted the will of other members of the Council in order to do what was right.

When one member of the Low Council insults Anselm, Joshua admonishes him in front of everyone. They get into a heated argument and the other man storms out. Joshua then calls for a vote of no-confidence to remove the man from his seat on the Council.

“Are… are you serious?” one of the members of the Low Council asked.

“I am. I do not issue idle threats. Nasim has obligations to this Council, and one of those obligations is to be present when we are convened—especially at the yearly Convening.

“Furthermore, his actions before this assembly have been unconscionable. He publically and purposefully belittled Anselm—which none of us should do to one another, but we of the Council must hold ourselves to an even higher standard. We are the governing body of our people, and we represent everyone. Anselm himself said we were horrible people—and why shouldn’t he think that? Nasim degraded us all in his eyes. If we don’t have the respect of our people, we have nothing.”

Joshua’s motto might be summed up in his words to Kalyn:

Always defend the defenseless,” he told her quietly, “no matter who or what they are. …Or who you have to fight against.”

Micah stands in contrast to both Joshua and Anselm. While he’s intelligent and capable of acting in a mature, adult manner (when he chooses too), and while he is undeniably loyal to his loved ones—and is capable of loving to the depths of his soul—he is clearly not a leader.

What relegates Micah to being a permanent sidekick to Anselm? As an extrovert, you would expect Micah to be the leader. And yet, Micah always defers to Anselm’s judgment and follows his orders without question.

Anselm and Micah both would probably say that Micah is more impulsive and doesn’t plan ahead well. Anselm always sees the big picture—the entire chess match—whereas Micah tends to see only one or two moves ahead.

But, in actuality, Fallows’ description of what makes a good leader explains why Micah is not a good leader. He does not have a sense of wholeness.

“I’ve lived for over nine hundred years, and I’m still not the man my father was. If I live nine hundred more, I still don’t think I’ll catch up to him.”

Contrast this to Anselm, who feels that he’s not as good (morally) as Kalyn, but he accepts himself and what he does with a knowledge of self that Micah seems to lack.

“I hope you can understand I don’t enjoy killing people, and I don’t do it indiscriminately, but I’m not going to apologize for doing it when I have to.”

Both Anselm and Joshua have confidence in their actions—and a moral certainty—that Micah seems to lack.

Micah is also not a man who consistent. There is no one in the world who Micah loves more than Anselm, but even his normally unquestionable loyalty can become shaky in the face of his rage.

“You promised you’d help me,” Micah accused Anselm.

“I never gave you a timeline for when we’d finish this.”

“Fuck that,” Micah said, ripping off his seat belt and throwing the car door open.

“Micah ben Isaac,” Anselm said in a low, threatening voice, “don’t you dare.” Micah looked back at him, glaring. “Don’t you dare walk out on me,” Anselm repeated.

Kalyn held her breath—tears rolling down her face—as she watched the two of them stare each other down. Finally, after an eternity, Micah sighed and shut the car door again. Defeat was evident in his face.

“We have obligations that are more important than your revenge,” Anselm said. “And you know your father would agree with me.”

“Way to make me feel like shit,” Micah muttered miserably.

“You deserve it.” Anselm reached over and took him by the nape of the neck, pulling him close so their foreheads touched. “Don’t ever scare me like that again, naishomeh echahre,” he said, his voice half-threatening and half-pleading.

Micah didn’t look him in the eyes. “You know I wouldn’t have gotten half a mile down the road. I’m just being impatient… as usual.”

Micah’s confusion about who he is goes deeper than just the decision-making process. He questions his entire identity and is unable to answer what would seem to be an easy yes-or-no question.

“Do you think you’re not a Jew anymore?” Joshua asked.

“I… don’t know,” Micah said honestly. “What I was born and what I am now are not the same thing—on many levels.”

“If you’re not a Jew, then what are you?”

Micah shrugged. “I don’t know.”

But when Micah proposes the same question to Joshua:

“Why do you keep the law?” Micah asked Joshua. “What’s your rationale for it?”

“I’m a Jew; it’s what I’m supposed to do.”

“Why do you think you’re still a Jew?”

“Who told me I wasn’t?”

“Hasn’t anyone?” Micah asked with surprise. “A lot of the Yaechahre—here, especially—don’t like to think we’re Jews.”

“Yes, well until they figure out a way to change who my mother was, they have no case against me.”

Joshua knows who he is. And while he will admit that he might be wrong, he lives as if he’s right. Because, when you get right down to it, what else can you do? When it comes to finding the answers to questions of morality and what God thinks, you’re never going to get a definitive answer. So Anselm and Joshua decide what’s right, based on what their consciences tell them, and they go on with their lives. And people follow them because they look like they know where they’re going.

What does this all of have to do with anything? I have no idea. Although I feel vaguely pleased that basic psychoanalysis can be applied to my imaginary characters, with the result that they are shown to act like real people.

If you’re stuck trying to develop one of your characters, try doing this to them. Are they a leader or a follower, and if so, why? If you don’t know why, then start making up some back story to explain why they are the way they are.

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