Mentch Management

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Have you ever had a boss that didn’t treat you with respect?

I did and I’m sorry if you have as well. It’s belittling, frustrating, and – as I’d like to share with you, completely ineffective in getting the job done.

Over the past three decades, I have immersed myself in trying to understand what it takes to be a good leader and manager. From my education at the University of Pennsylvania, through some years on Wall Street, as the Senior Vice President of Yeshiva University, and now, honored to be the EVP and COO of the Orthodox Union, I have tried to get my hands on every piece of literature on the topic. Along the way, something interesting happened – the more I learned, the more I realized that so many of the ideas I was reading in the Harvard Business Review or from Adam Grant all sounded so familiar. Those ideas that they were sharing, based on rigorous studies from the top experts in the field, I had learned them before, from the Rambam, from the Baalei Mussar, and from the Chassidic Masters. It dawned on me that there was a rich reservoir of management knowledge in our tradition and we would only stand to gain if somehow the latest research was wedded with our ancient wisdom.

With that in mind, I’d like to introduce you to something I call, Mentch Management.

A Mentch is defined by the Merriam Webster dictionary as a “person of integrity and honor.” We’re probably more familiar with its Yiddish meaning, essentially, to be a good person. The word management comes from the French “mesnager” which means “to hold in the hand the reins of a horse” and is commonly understood to mean the administration of an organization and handing of its resources.

Mentch Management, then, is the art and science of working with people to facilitate their growth and the growth of your organization in alignment with principles of integrity, honor, dignity.

Mentch Management makes sense not only because it is “nice” to do, but in an age where employees are seeking not only meaningful work, but cultural fit, an age when we’ve seen the devastating damage that autocratic leadership can yield, an age where every day business schools are publishing the benefits of basic middos of treating others well and being a more refined person, perhaps it is time for us to run our organizations like a mentch.

I look forward to sharing regular messages filled with the latest research, Torah sources that preempt these ideas and often take them so much further, and personal stories, my mistakes and successes, that I hope you can learn from as we grow in our Mentch Management.

Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph is OU Executive Vice President/Chief Operating Officer.