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Mosaic leadership: charisma and bureaucracy in Exodus 18

Eli Gottlieb (Mandel Leadership Institute, Jerusalem, Israel)

Journal of Management Development

ISSN: 0262-1711

Article publication date: 14 September 2012



The purpose of this paper is to examine the relations between charisma and bureaucracy, as presented in rabbinic commentaries on Exodus 18 and Max Weber's Economics and Society. It aims to show that approaches developed in these texts have important practical implications for contemporary managers and leadership development professionals.


The paper is an interpretive study. It uses textual analysis to compare and contrast the dynamics of leadership portrayed in each document.


Like Weber, the Torah treats charisma and bureaucracy as mutually antagonistic forces that co‐exist in dynamic interaction. However, where Weber's account is descriptive, the Torah's is prescriptive, advocating forms of leadership that deliberately combine bureaucracy and charisma.

Research limitations/implications

The paper's goal is not to review contemporary literature on charismatic versus bureaucratic leadership. Instead, it seeks to investigate approaches to leadership implicit in two “classics” of very different kinds. As such, the approaches explored here are just two among many other possible approaches. The interpretative method developed here could be used in future studies to examine approaches to leadership implicit not only in Jewish and sociological texts but also in other genres and “wisdom” literatures.

Practical implications

The paper presents three practical implications for contemporary leadership development.


The paper presents a novel perspective on leadership – Mosaic leadership – that highlights the multifaceted and dynamic nature of leadership development. In addition, it shows that management wisdom from the Jewish tradition can be meaningfully compared with ideas developed in other traditions – including the tradition of contemporary management studies.



Gottlieb, E. (2012), "Mosaic leadership: charisma and bureaucracy in Exodus 18", Journal of Management Development, Vol. 31 No. 9, pp. 974-983.



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