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Ethical leadership: lessons from Moses

Shlomo Ben‐Hur (IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland)
Karsten Jonsen (IMD, Lausanne, Switzerland)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 14 September 2012




The purpose of this paper is to outline a model of leadership based on the characteristics of the most highly acclaimed leader in Jewish history, Moses. The lessons from his leadership that are applicable to modern corporate leaders are identified and related to management development and education settings.


This paper relies on a direct reading of books 2–5 of the Old Testament (see notes) to propose a model based on Moses’ leadership. Using Moses’ journey toward and during his leadership, a model for present‐day leadership is proposed. Examples are given to anchor this model in biblical texts and reference it to modern leadership thoughts, spirituality and practical wisdom.


While the leadership of Moses is known and widely discussed within Jewish learning, it has not yet found a wider, secular audience. However, Moses’ leadership characteristics present an opportunity to reflect on how creative tensions between different leadership traits could be reconciled and an ethical model of leadership could be applied.

Research limitations/implications

This paper does not look beyond books 2–5 of the Old Testament for further supporting evidence of the leadership of Moses. Future research could broaden the model through these sources. Moreover, research could test the four dimensions of leadership proposed in this paper in contemporary contexts, with performance as a dependent variable.


Moses’ leadership has been discussed by theologists but this paper suggests drawing on it as part of the ongoing academic discourse on corporate leadership. The biography of Moses sheds a light on the formative experiences of an ethical leader and his actions demonstrate how such a leader can act under challenging circumstances. If further developed, this research promises to be a useful addition to current leadership thinking and management education.



Ben‐Hur, S. and Jonsen, K. (2012), "Ethical leadership: lessons from Moses", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 31 No. 9, pp. 962-973.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2012, Emerald Group Publishing Limited

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