Develop Your Strengths

The greatest strengths we have as leaders comes from the virtues of our character – our capacity for compassion, courage, curiosity, gratitude, humility and integrity.  Together, these build toward wisdom.

In Judaism, we call these super-strengths Middot, and we have a traditional practice for their development called Mussar. None of us is born with the capacity for leadership but all of us can learn to lead virtuously by strengthening our core Middot through reflection and practice.

The Science of Character
The Making of a Mensch
Explore Strengths

Mussar: Build Your Leadership from the Inside Out

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The Seven Super-Strengths (Middot) that Drive Your Leadership Growth

01. Compassion

Compassion (rachamim) is the virtue of being with someone in his/her suffering. OR …is the virtue of being with others in their suffering. It is close to empathy. To learn compassion, engage in daily acts of kindness (gemilut chasidim) and righteousness (tzedakah). And, make time to learn people’s story; be a witness to their suffering.

Brené Brown on Empathy
Compassion and the Heart of Jewish Spirituality
Reconnecting with Compassion

02. Courage

Courage (ometz lev) is the virtue of doing what is right even (or especially) when we are fearful. It requires us to be vulnerable while exercising prudence. To learn courage, make it a practice to be vulnerable by putting yourself out there to others, being transparent that (like everyone else) you are still learning to lead.

A Realistic Guide to Building Courage in Life
Cultivating Jewish Courage (Ometz Lev)
Brené Brown – The Courage to Be Vulnerable

03. Curiosity

Curiosity (sakranut) is the virtue of immersing yourself in ongoing discovery – seeking understanding while always remaining comfortable with uncertainty. To learn curiosity, practice some form of daily meditation so that you can better attune yourself to your own mind and to the world around you. 

How to Cultivate Your Curiosity
In Search of Better Questions: Nonprofit Strategy from a Different Millennium
Elizabeth Gilbert – Choosing Curiosity Over Fear

04. Gratitude

Gratitude (hakarat hatov) is the virtue of recognizing the good and honoring its source. To learn gratitude, try giving thanks by saying one hundred blessings a day. Also, as you sit down to eat, recognize the chain of events and people that brought this food to your table.

Giving Thanks Can Make You Happier
The Power of Jewish Blessings
Want to be Happy? Be Grateful

05. Humility

Humility (anavah) as a Jewish virtue is not the opposite of pride, but rather maintaining a tenuous balance between pride and humility. To learn humility, ask others to reflect with you on anything you have recently tried to do from leading a meeting to cooking a new dish.  Also, commit yourself to learning to play a musical instrument and keep a record of the interweaving moments of pride and humility you feel as you slowly progress.

 Chutzpah and Humility: Five Habits of the Heart for Democracy in America
“It Ain’t the Heat, It’s the Humility”: Jewish Leadership for the 21st Century
Be Humble- And Other Lessons from the Philosophy of Water

06. Integrity

Integrity (yosher) is the virtue of aligning your actions with your values across the varied breadth of your life. It requires of us honesty, nuance, and consistency – finding the balance between amoral pragmatism and morally rigidity. To learn integrity, write out your core values and keep a daily journal on how well you did acting in accordance with these values.

6 Steps to Leading a Life of Integrity
 Where are You Now: The Building of Authentic Leaders

07. Wisdom

Wisdom (hochma) is the virtue that makes all the other virtues possible. It guides us in knowing the correct way of being virtuous in any particular situation, not through applying universal principles but through seeking to embody the appropriate virtue for any particular situation. To gain practical wisdom, practice all the other virtues with intention and critical reflection.

Aristotle & Virtue Theory: Crash Course Philosophy
Toward a Modern Jewish Virtue Ethics of Education
 Should You Live for Your Resume…or Your Eulogy?