By World Mizrachi Director-General, Rabbi Doron Perez
John C. Maxwell, one of the great leadership gurus of the modern era revealed some fascinating statistics about the academic ability of political leaders and captains of industry. In the opening of one of his many books, entitled “Talent is Never Enough” (page 2), he quotes the following remarkable research:
* More than 50% of all CEOs of Fortune 500 companies had a C or C- average in college.
* 65% of all US senators come from the bottom half of their school classes.
* 75% of US presidents were in the lower half club in school.
* More than 50% of millionaire entrepreneurs never finished college.
[Research based on Robert J. Kriegel and Louis Patler in their book “If It Ain’t Broke… Break It!” (New York Warner Books, 1991, page 11)]
A cynic would indeed say that this is clear proof that our political leaders are not too bright. I, though, wish to highlight what I believe is a critical point that emerges from this research – that in order to succeed as a leader, there are a host of additional competencies and intelligences which one must possess. IQ and academic competency is simply not enough. Furthermore, and quite remarkably, it is clear that with only average IQ one is still able to achieve remarkable heights of success in leadership. What is astounding about this research is that we are talking about the most powerful leader on earth, the President of the USA and who leads the most powerful and influential country of the modern era.
So what are these ‘other’ crucial qualities that are necessary in order to succeed in life and in leadership?
When smart is dumb
Thirty years ago, in the early 1980s, a new realm in the field of intelligence emerged Emotional Intelligence. The guiding visionary behind it was Professor Howard Gardner, a psychologist at the Harvard School of Education. It was popularized by Professor Daniel Goleman in his bestseller entitled “Emotional Intelligence – Why It Can Matter More Than IQ”. This groundbreaking work was published in the mid-90s and came after many years of research in this nascent field. The trailblazer was indeed Howard Gardner, who in his influential 1983 book entitled “Frames of Mind”, was highly critical of the monolithic IQ view of intelligence. Gardner points out that IQ testing began during World War I and was developed by Psychologist Lewis Terman of Stanford University. This IQ testing focused mainly on mathematical/logical thinking as well as linguistic verbal expression. It became formalized in what is known as the Stanford-Binet Intelligence Scale, what we know simply as IQ testing. In “Frames of Mind”, Gardner refutes this IQ view of the world and proves that there is a much wider spectrum of intelligences with at least seven key variations. There are the two standard academic ones of verbal expression and rational thinking but he goes on to include at least five others. Over the last 30 years subsequent to Gardner’s original findings, there are many who show that there are up to 20 different types of intelligences.
First and foremost amongst these is emotional intelligence. In Goleman’s book above, in Chapter 3 entitled “When Smart is Dumb”, Goleman quotes a summary of Gardner’s findings in the realm of emotional intelligence. Gardner found two realms of emotional intelligence which he coined as interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence, and summarized them as follows:
“Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to understand other people – what motivates them, how they work, how to work cooperatively with them. Successful sales people, politicians, teachers, clinicians and religious leaders are all likely to be individuals with high degrees of interpersonal intelligence. Intrapersonal intelligence… is a correlated ability, turned inward. It is a capacity to form an accurate, veridical model of oneself and to be able to use that model to operate effectively in life.”
Simply put, there are a host of other qualities in this realm of emotional intelligence that are needed in order to succeed in leadership: qualities such as intuition, empathy, the ability to read social trends, understand people in general, passion, vision and self-control, to mention but a few.
The truth is that these are not only critical qualities in the realm of leadership, but are critical to success in so many realms of personal and public life.
Gardener and Goleman’s findings have been a game changer in the realm of research-based leadership. Indeed, it has shaken the very foundations of the education system in the Western world. It is now clear that there are a host of personal, emotional and character qualities, all beyond the regular academic and IQ-based qualities, which are critical in order to succeed in life. Some of these are individual or intrapersonal qualities, while others are interpersonal and necessary in succeeding with others.
Whereas it was always known that these “softer” qualities contribute somewhat to success, it was totally underestimated as to the essential and decisive role that they play in such success. After all, over the last 100 years it seemed that the most fundamental part of the education system was indeed academic qualities, which could be clearly measured through the IQ testing. Indeed, standardized testing was and is widely accepted in the educational system around the world and was once thought of as the gold standard for SAT testing and college admission examinations. Rational and logical thinking, as well as language comprehension and expression were seen as the only primary areas which permit entrance into the hallowed halls of the university, and hence success in life
We now know that this is simply not true. IQ is no longer the gold standard for success in so many fields. Indeed, when Goleman first published his book he stated in the same chapter mentioned above that academic success in school can only be seen as a 20% indication of future success, i.e. that only one in five people who succeed academically will go on to succeed in life. Later research has shown that it could be low as one-in-ten.
It is not surprising that currently the most popular of all TED talks is that of Sir Ken Robinson where he questions the efficacy of the current accepted educational system. It is true that Sir Robinson is an outstanding and eloquent speaker, but there is also great truth to the content and substance of his message. In his talk, he specifically focuses on the need for more creativity and artistic expression in education, which gives self-expression to so many. From Gardner to Goleman to Maxwell – it is clear is that there is a broad range of competencies and intelligences, far beyond the traditional academic intelligence, which are vital to success in so many fields in life. Foremost amongst this is Emotional Intelligence
The wise of heart
I find it quite incredible that these intelligences are already alluded to in the Torah over 3,000 years ago. A term which appears consistently throughout the פרשיות – the portions – dealing with the building of the משכן – Tabernacle – in the desert, is the term חכם לב – wise of heart. The term חכם לב, emphasized over 10 times in its different variations, is the central quality needed for the architects and artisans who created the exquisite and multifaceted clothes of Aharon and the Kohanim, and the even more remarkably diverse and beautiful details of the Tabernacle and all its vessels.
Three examples from three different parshiyot dealing with these issues, as follows:
Parashat Tetzave (28:3):
“וְאַתָּה תְּדַבֵּר אֶל כָּל חַכְמֵי לֵב אֲשֶׁר מִלֵּאתִיו רוּחַ חָכְמָה וְעָשׂוּ אֶת בִּגְדֵי אַהֲרֹן לְקַדְּשׁוֹ לְכַהֲנוֹ לִי:”
“And you shall speak to all the wise hearted, whom I have filled with the spirit of wisdom, and they shall make Aaron’s garments to sanctify him, [so] that he serve Me [as a Kohen].”
Parashat Ki Tisa (31:6):
“וַאֲנִי הִנֵּה נָתַתִּי אִתּוֹ אֵת אָהֳלִיאָב בֶּן אֲחִיסָמָךְ לְמַטֵּה דָן וּבְלֵב כָּל חֲכַם לֵב נָתַתִּי חָכְמָה וְעָשׂוּ אֵת כָּל אֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ:”
“And, behold, with him I have placed Oholiab the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan, and all the wise hearted into whose hearts I have instilled wisdom, and they shall make everything I have commanded you:”
Parashat Vayakhel (35:35):
“מִלֵּא אֹתָם חָכְמַת לֵב לַעֲשׂוֹת כָּל מְלֶאכֶת חָרָשׁ | וְחשֵׁב וְרֹקֵם בַּתְּכֵלֶת וּבָאַרְגָּמָן בְּתוֹלַעַת הַשָּׁנִי וּבַשֵּׁשׁ וְאֹרֵג עֹשֵׂי כָּל מְלָאכָה וְחשְׁבֵי מַחֲשָׁבֹת:”
“He imbued them with wisdom of the heart, to do all sorts of work of a craftsman and a master worker and an embroiderer with blue, purple, and crimson wool, and linen and [of] weavers, those who do every [manner of] work, and master weavers.”
Here we see in three consecutive parshyiot at the end of the book of Shmot, all dealing with the building of the Mishkan, that the salient quality needed for these artisans is a wise heart. It is interesting to note that the academic and theoretical knowledge of their field, as well as the technical and practical knowledge needed to implement is not enough to succeed. There is an additional component of wisdom of the heart that is necessary.
What is the wisdom of the heart that is being spoken about that is so critical to the success of the building of the tabernacle and all its details? The great Rav Naftali Tzvi Yehuda Berlin – the Netziv of Volozhin asks this question in Ha’amek Davar (31:6) as follows:
“אבל עדיין קשה לשון ‘כל חכם לב’ (שמות לא, ו) – והרי כוח השכל אינו בלב, אלא משכנו במוח.”
“But still the wording of ‘all the wise-hearted’ is difficult, since the power of the mind is not in the heart, but rather in the brain.”
He then goes on to answer his own question.
“אלא ‘חכם לב’ יש עוד שתי משמעויות: חדא, חוכמת יראת ה’, שהיא ראשית חכמה, ומשכנה בלב; שנית, בכוח הביטחון שיחכם במלאכה זו, אף על גב שלא למדה ולא אימן ידיו לה מעולם.”
“We may clarify this by saying that ‘wise-hearted’ has two meanings: one is the wisdom of the fear of G-d, which is the basis for wisdom, and which resides in the heart. Secondly, with the power of trust that he will have the wisdom necessary for this craft, even though he has never learnt it and his hands never practiced it.”
He further states in Shmot 36:1 :
“אשר נתן ד’ חכמה בליבו – זהו גם כן חכמת הלב, לבטוח שיצליח בזו הפעולה, ושירצה לקבל על עצמו להתקרב אל המלאכה אף על גב שלא למד מעולם אומנות זו…”
“Whom G-d has put wisdom in his heart – this, too, is wisdom of the heart, to trust that he will succeed in this deed, and that he will want to take it upon himself to familiarize himself with this craft even though he has never learnt this art…”
The Netziv here is clearly talking about qualities from the world of emotional intelligence. He is talking about qualities such as self-belief, self-confidence and intuition. These are far beyond the technical ability to weave, construct and build. Clearly, the wisdom of the heart opens up a host of other qualities which are found so to speak in the heart, in the softer, emotional and spiritual elements of our persona.
The Mishkan, with all its paraphernalia, is not only a building of exquisite aesthetic external beauty, but it is first and foremost the place where Hashem’s שכינה – Presence – is detected on earth. It is a place, so to speak, where Heaven meets Earth, and a place where G-dliness can emanate from within our physical lives. In order to create this, the chief architects – Betzalel Ben Uri and Oholiav ben Achisamach, as well as every individual worker, must be blessed with a wise heart in order for Hashem’s Presence to be experienced.
King Solomon’s request
Not only in the realm of art and architecture do we see the need for a wise heart, but also specifically in the realm of statesmanship and judgment. King Solomon, the wisest of all men and the great statesman of Israel requested this very quality, which he was subsequently granted, from Hashem in order for him to succeed in his leadership role (Kings 1, Chapter 3, Verses 9-13):
“וְנָתַתָּ לְעַבְדְּךָ לֵב שֹׁמֵעַ לִשְׁפֹּט אֶת עַמְּךָ לְהָבִין בֵּין טוֹב לְרָע כִּי מִי יוּכַל לִשְׁפֹּט אֶת עַמְּךָ הַכָּבֵד הַזֶּה: וַיִּיטַב הַדָּבָר בְּעֵינֵי ה’ כִּי שָׁאַל שְׁלֹמֹה אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה: וַיֹּאמֶר אֱלֹקִים אֵלָיו יַעַן אֲשֶׁר שָׁאַלְתָּ אֶת הַדָּבָר הַזֶּה וְלֹא שָׁאַלְתָּ לְּךָ יָמִים רַבִּים וְלֹא שָׁאַלְתָּ לְּךָ עשֶׁר וְלֹא שָׁאַלְתָּ נֶפֶשׁ אֹיְבֶיךָ וְשָׁאַלְתָּ לְּךָ הָבִין לִשְׁמֹעַ מִשְׁפָּט: הִנֵּה עָשִֹיתִי כִּדְבָרֶיךָ הִנֵּה | נָתַתִּי לְךָ לֵב חָכָם וְנָבוֹן אֲשֶׁר כָּמוֹךָ לֹא הָיָה לְפָנֶיךָ וְאַחֲרֶיךָ לֹא יָקוּם כָּמוֹךָ: וְגַם אֲשֶׁר לֹא שָׁאַלְתָּ נָתַתִּי לָךְ גַּם עשֶׁר גַּם כָּבוֹד אֲשֶׁר לֹא הָיָה כָמוֹךָ אִישׁ בַּמְּלָכִים כָּל יָמֶיךָ:”
“Give (therefore) Your servant an understanding heart to judge Your people, that I may discern between good and bad; for who is able to judge this Your great people? And the speech pleased the L-rd, that Solomon had asked this thing. And G-d said to him, “Because you have asked this thing, and have not asked for yourself long life; neither have you asked riches for yourself, nor have you asked the life of your enemies; but have asked for yourself understanding to discern judgment. Behold, I have done according to your word; behold, I have given you a wise and understanding heart; so that there was none like you before you, nor after you shall any arise like you. And I have also given you that which you have not asked, both riches and honor, so that there shall not be any among the kings like you all your days.”
King Solomon, being the leading statesman, was called upon to make tough judgment calls both in the political and judicial arenas. He understood that in order to read situations correctly and make the right decisions, he needed the plethora of the emotional intelligences embedded in the wisdom of heart that we have spoken about in this article. Remarkably, this modern term of Emotional Intelligence which Gardner so beautifully pioneered and researched, which Goleman popularized and Maxwell explained already existed within the ancient wisdom of the Torah for millennia.
The wisdom of the heart is critical today as it always was to navigate success in life and leadership.