It’s always interesting and often gripping to watch the “parade” known as the American presidential elections. This time around—with the coronavirus spreading and spiking all over the world, racial division in the United States, growing economic disparity and pervasive anti-Semitism, particularly on the Internet—there is certainly no shortage of issues to address as the politics behind it all gains momentum.

Perhaps the most crucial issue—one we try to touch on, but which cannot be captured on news cameras or in speeches—is whether any candidate really possesses what we can call true leadership.

It’s A real leader is actually the greatest servanta tricky issue because, like modesty, leadership is one of those qualities that, as soon as a person begins describing his or her own mastery of it, you can’t help but feel that they don’t have it. Rather, they have its exact opposite.

Real leaders tend to be those who run away from any type of position of power, and they rarely speak about themselves because that just isn’t where their thoughts are. A real leader is actually the greatest servant. He doesn’t have a personal agenda at hand, but is instead there solely for the needs of the people he is leading.

In this week’s Torah portion, Parshat Pinchas, we witness the ordination of Joshua bin Nun as the successor to our first national leader, Moses. Like Moses himself, Joshua never wanted to be a leader. Each, instead, wanted from an early age to serve. Moses: by going out into the fields where the Jews were working as slaves, and seeking ways to ease their suffering. Joshua: by devoting himself to Moses. Even as a young man, he was constantly present in the tent that served as a Torah study hall. As an adult, he remained Moses’s loyal student and aide. Both had to be persuaded to accept the role of leader.

Yet the deepest insights into what makes a real leader are revealed only when the responsibilities are about to change hands from Moses to Joshua.

Having just been told by G‑d that he is about to pass away, it would have been logical and human for Moses to turn his attention to settling his own affairs and giving last instructions to his family and followers. After all, what leader isn’t concerned with what his mark will be on history? What parent isn’t concerned with how well their wishes will be followed after they pass on?

Moses wasn’t. The generals of the Jewish army always went firstHe was concerned only about two things—that G‑d’s will be realized, and that the Jewish people not be left alone without someone to understand them, protect them, inspire them and, when need be, comfort them. The words of his plea have forever encapsulated the meaning of what it means to be a Jewish leader: “G‑d of the spirits of all flesh, appoint a man over the assembly, who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall take them out and who shall bring them in.” (Numbers 27:15–17)

Why is G‑d being addressed at this point as “G‑d of the spirits of all flesh”? According to our sages, Moses is acknowledging a basic truth—that the personality of each individual is unique and known to G‑d—and he is beseeching G‑d to appoint a leader who can deal with each of these personalities. He is seeking a leader for the Jewish people who will be able to understand and empathize with each person. G‑d answers him by promising that the man He is appointing as Moses’ successor is indeed one “in whom there is spirit,” i.e., that he will be able to act in a way befitting the personality of each individual.

Joshua was just such a person, establishing a rapport with each individual based on genuine empathy, and not on attempts to curry favor. And true to the second part of Moses’ request, he “went before them and came in before them.” In other words, he didn’t send the nation out to war to fight battles. He went first, and he inspired in them the confidence to be successful and thus come back (“and come in before them”). For centuries, these were the defining characteristics of the army of the Jewish people; unlike other armies, where generals stay comfortably behind the line of fire, the generals of the Jewish army always went first, and with their good deeds, empathy and trust were able to inspire confidence in their soldiers. Victory was the result.

Of course, this was true not only of physical battles, but of our internal spiritual battles as well. Each of us has to find the inspiration in Moses’ words to become true leaders in our own sphere of influence. By caring about and genuinely connecting to the souls of people we must influence—for starters, our families—and by relating to their individual personalities. By leading through example, even if it means stretching ourselves to the breaking point; and by strengthening our own trust in the One who is guiding us, whether we see His hand in things or not.

It’s a kind of leadership that tends to create not followers, but people who are genuine leaders in their own right. And that’s something this world could use a little more of.