Mentsch Management

How Do We Partner? The Benefits of Shared Leadership

As I prepared to write this next installment of Mentsch Management (thank you, readers, for your continued positive feedback), I suffered loss in a way I had never experienced before. I found out that Sergeant First Class (res.) Yakir Hexter, a fighter in the 8219 Engineering Battalion, fell in battle in the southern Gaza Strip. 

On the day Yakir was to be born, I drove his parents to the hospital. His mother, Chaya, encouraged me to slow down so that we could survive the foggy, dark roads from the Gush to the hospital. His father, Josh, was my chavruta at Yeshivat Har Etzion. He was not just my partner, but my teacher too. He still is—including the day he spoke at the funeral of his twenty-six-year-old son, Hy”d.

Yakir had a special chavruta, Sergeant First Class (res.) David Schwartz, Hy”d, who was also taken from us in battle in Gaza, at the same moment as his learning partner. They were study partners in the very same yeshivah where Josh and I had studied.

What is it about partnership—whether in study, at home or at the office—that makes it work? 

At the funeral, Josh described Yakir as “a mentsch, a young man of integrity, honor and kindness.” Yakir was many things: smart, talented, funny, a runner, truly a golden boy; he was studying to be an architect. And what made him a great man was his mentschlich approach to everything he did. And that’s what it takes to be a partner. 

This essay is dedicated in memory of Yakir Yamin ben Rav Yehoshua Hexter, Hy”d.

Sergeant First Class (res.) Yakir Hexter, twenty-six, from Jerusalem (left), and Sergeant First Class (res.) David Schwartz, twenty-six, from Elazar were killed in action in Gaza in January on the same day. This painting by artist Tanya Zbili Katz, entitled “Chavrusas in Shomayim,” depicts Hexter and Schwartz, H”yd, learning bechavruta at Yeshivat Har Etzion, based on a 2019 photo taken by the young men’s mutual friend Yehuda Moskowitz. Explore more of Tanya Zbili Katz’s work on Instagram @Tanyazbiliart and on her website


Leadership teams have long included members who play complementary roles. Homer’s history of the Trojan War not only highlights the strength of King Agamemnon but also the warrior heroics of Achilles, Odysseus’s strategic approach, and Nestor’s diplomacy and management of the team. Each of them played a role and played it well, which led to victory.1 

And yet many a team has also failed at the art of partnership, especially at senior levels. Our question, then, is: How do we partner with others?

Rabbi Naftali Tzvi Yehudah Berlin (the Netziv) notes that in Shemot 6:26–27, the names of Moshe and Aharon—leaders, brothers, partners—are presented in different orders:

Verse 26: “Hu Aharon uMoshe asher amar Hashem lahem hotzi’u et Bnei Yisrael me’eretz Mitzrayim al tzivotam—It is the same Aharon and Moshe to whom Hashem said, ‘Bring forth the Children of Israel from the land of Egypt, troop by troop.’”

Verse 27: “Hem hamidaberim el Pharaoh melech Mitzrayim lehotzi et Bnei Yisrael miMitzrayim hu Moshe v’Aharon—It was they who spoke to Pharaoh, king of Egypt, to bring the Children of Israel out of Egypt; these are the same Moshe and Aharon.”

Why is Aharon before Moshe in the first verse, and then Moshe before Aharon in the second? Rashi explains that this implies that they were of equivalent stature. The Netziv disagrees, for as great as Aharon was, Moshe has a special place in our history. He suggests that the order depends on whose perspective is being represented. Verse 26 presents the perspective of Bnei Yisrael (i.e., “taking Bnei Yisrael out of the land of Egypt”). They knew Aharon as he had stayed in Egypt. Perhaps they didn’t yet fully appreciate Moshe’s value, because he had grown up in the palace and then fled to Midyan.

Verse 27, on the other hand, is presented from the perspective of the palace of Pharaoh, as it says “Hem hamidaberim el Pharaoh.” In Pharaoh’s eyes, Moshe was greater. He already knew Moshe’s name and his wisdom, but he didn’t know Aharon. This may be because Pharaoh knew Moshe since he had grown up in the palace. Or it may indicate the lack of Israelite leadership while Moshe was away, and thus the need for a new voice, one that was at one time rooted in the local leadership but also familiar with the palace. 

Furthering his analysis, the Netziv points to the phrase “al tzivotam” in verse 26. Based on Iyov 7:1, “Halo tzava le’enosh alei aretz v’chiymei sachir yamav—Is not man on Earth for a limited time, his days are like those of a hireling,” he translates “tzava” not just as a limited time but as a specific purpose. Thus, al tzivotam implies that each leader had a specific purpose. 

In verse 27, in the war of words with Pharaoh (“Hem hamidaberim”), Moshe was greater than Aharon. What was Moshe’s purpose, his lane, his superpower, his strength and identity? He represented the paradigm of Torah, the metaphorical sword protecting Bnei Yisrael. The fight with Pharaoh had to come from Moshe, so he is listed first in the verse that reflects Pharaoh’s perspective. 

Aharon, on the other hand, represented the sustaining power of tefillah. The work of Aharon and his descendants—korbanot, the Mishkan, and ultimately the Beit Hamikdash—is what brought about sustenance for the Jewish people. Even before the Jews went out of Egypt, when they would daven for sustenance, Aharon was the leader. The people trusted him and turned to him. Targum Yonatan on Parashat Chukat (20:29) states that when Aharon died, Moshe called him “Amud tzelos’hon d’Yisrael—the pillar of Yisrael’s prayers.” And this is what made Aharon special. Bnei Yisrael’s sustenance was dependent on Aharon, and therefore Aharon is listed before Moshe in verse 26, reflecting the perspective of the Children of Israel. 

Moshe and Aharon serve as a paradigm of a balanced partnership. Their respective strengths of protection and sustenance were both needed to effectively lead Bnei Yisrael. 

How do we partner with others? In “Is It Time to Consider Co-CEOs?” (Harvard Business Review, July-August 2022), authors Marc A. Feigen, Michael Jenkins and Anton Warendh studied 2,200 companies listed in the S&P 1200 and the Russell 1000 from 1996 to 2020. They found only eighty-seven companies that were led by co-chief executives:

. . . [D]uring that period, especially in times of stress, some of those jointly led companies performed notably poorly. . . . Many observers don’t find this surprising. Installing two decision-makers at the top, the theory goes, almost invariably leads to trouble, in the form of conflicts, confusion, inconsistency, irresolution, and delays. Marvin Bower, who built McKinsey, famously warned Goldman Sachs not to have co-CEOs. “Power sharing,” he said, “never works.” Except that it often does.

Feigen, Jenkins and Warendh found that the co-led companies performed well—they had an annual shareholder return of 9.5 percent, 3 percent better than their competitors—and that co-leadership didn’t negatively affect longevity for the leaders themselves.

The key, they found, was to set the right factors for successful partnership—something that resonates in my own partnership with Rabbi Moshe Hauer, my OU chavruta. Though they listed nine factors in total,2 including conditions like willing participation, board support, shared values and an exit strategy, of note is their inclusion of “complementary skill sets,” which can then yield clear responsibilities. Similarly, Stephen A. Miles and Michael D. Watkins, in “The Leadership Team: Complementary Strengths or Conflicting Agendas?” (Harvard Business Review, April 2007),3 highlight four ways in which complementary leadership manifests, including complementarity in tasks, expertise, cognition and roles. Underlying each of them is a clarity of responsibilities, lanes, capabilities and styles. When leaders divide responsibilities into clear lanes, such as one managing the external relationships and the other concentrating on the internal ecosystem, the inherent risks in shared leadership can be managed through trust, communication and coordination.

Moshe and Aharon each had their complementary strengths. What emerged from their relationship, through the lens of the Netziv, are three possible steps that might help others when thinking about how to share leadership:

1. We must know ourselves. What are our strengths? What do we bring to the equation? What is our sense of where we can really add the most value?

2. We must appreciate, know and have an understanding of our partner’s strengths. What do we need him to be great at? 

3. We have to understand when and how to stay in our own lanes at the appropriate times. When is one person the focus, and when is the other person the responsible party? 

Moshe and Aharon both brought remarkable strengths to each other and to the leadership of the Jewish nation, teaching us important lessons on how we partner with each other. As we approach Pesach, may we utilize these pointers on being a mentsch in the management of all sorts of complementary partnerships—whether in our personal lives with spouses or family members or at work: to understand what we bring to the table, what others bring, and how to appreciate when the other is primary, ultimately yielding optimal results for us and all of Klal Yisrael.  

1. See the opening of Stephen A. Miles and Michael D. Watkins, “The Leadership Team: Complementary Strengths or Conflicting Agendas?” Harvard Business Review, April 2007,

2. See the full list at



Rabbi Dr. Josh Joseph is executive vice president/chief operating officer of the OU.

This article was featured in the Spring 2024 issue of Jewish Action.
We'd like to hear what you think about this article. Post a comment or email us at