Politicians aspire to it, pundits pontificate about it, CEOs get stock-optioned out of it and the rest of us just grizzle about the lack of it. But what is leadership? Are people born into greatness or can they be trained for the role? Does it depend on personality and strength of character or just the ability to be decisive on cue? Consensus builders or I-did-it-my-wayers? Can leaders be self-anointed or does true authority depend on the will of the people?

The Torah variously describes two models of leadership; those chosen by the nation and those appointed by G‑d. The two are not necessarily mutually exclusive, yet there are subtle but undisputable distinctions between the different paradigms of authority.

Each leader took personal possession of the entire tribal land and then subdivided it into family blocksWe read this week how the nesi'im (the twelve tribal princes) represented their constituents in the division of the Land of Israel. The process described in the Torah is extremely interesting; rather than act as mere agents or proxies for their tribe, each leader took personal possession of the entire tribal land and then subdivided the region into family blocks.

An elected representative can only ever act with the authority invested in him by those who appointed him. He is their agent, acting on their behalf. Contrast this model with that of a leader parachuted into the role by G‑d. Rather than acting as a servant of his followers, he has absolute power to make decisions and to carry them through.

Ironically, it is the leader with the Divine mandate who can be most responsive to the individualized needs of his flock. Someone who is appointed by a group must decide policy from the perspective of the group as a whole. The desires of the individual must be subsumed to the needs of the collective. The leader appointed by G‑d has the capacity to adapt his response to each and every individual.

The nesi'im were acting as the direct representatives of G‑d. He appointed them and they played by G‑d's rules. In their role as Divine representatives they acted independently of the nation. They became the owners of the land and then they allocated it to each individual. They had been granted the wisdom and ability to perfectly apportion to each person and family the portion that would be their heritage forever.

We Are All Leaders

People are often reluctant to assume positions of leadership. Who can blame them, why would anyone volunteer to stick their head up over the parapets of self-consciousness and public criticism? Too many people desert the field of battle, leaving the heavy lifting to others.

G‑d appointed each of us as leaders over our spheres of influence; whether familial, communal or globalBut that attitude reflects a lack of self-belief rather than an honest appraisal of our true capacities. G‑d appointed each of us as leaders over our spheres of influence; whether familial, communal or global. We all must all be willing and ready to accept responsibility when called upon by G‑d.

It would be wonderful to be accepted by all; to live a life of public acclaim and to bask in the radiance of universal approval ratings, but a real leader cannot wait until approached by others. Join up, make a difference, lead from the front and change the world. Don't rely on others to act on your behalf, but get out there and do it yourself.

Your jurisdiction extends far wider than your immediate surrounding. You and you alone are in the unique position to affect and effect the future, and to touch the lives and spirits of every other person in the world.