According to Chassidut, the most basic character improvement of a developing leader lies in the area of submission and humility. Paradoxically, the more one is aware of serving G-d and becoming a conduit for G-d’s will, the greater the rectified ego can lead others: “Do His will as if it was your will, that He may do your will as if it was His will. Make your will nullified before His will, that He may make the will of others nullified before your will.”
The central word representing the self–“I,” ani–appears in many verses relating to both ego and kingship. Adoniyahu, the son of King David, who wanted to rule while David was still alive, began his “campaign” with the statement “I will rule.” In Kabbalah this statement is viewed as the quintessential example of unrectified ego. King David, conversely, said of himself: “for poor, ani, and desolate am I.” In Kabbalah, the letters alef and ayin are interchangeable. In the above verse the letter ayin of the word “poor” is transformed into the letter alef of the word “I.” From this verse we learn that the process leading to rectified ego only occurs through an initial, and thereafter, continual awareness of one’s own existential lowliness.
Another beautiful allusion to the idea of clarified self-consciousness is found when permuting the letters of the word “I” ani, forming the word “nothing,” ayin. One of the most basic Jewish beliefs is that G-d created the world “something from nothing,” yesh meayin, implying that the universe is not eternal (as science thought until the “big bang” theory) but has a “beginning.” Rectified ego and leadership qualities are “created” from a sense of being “nothing” in relationship to an infinite, all-knowing Creator. Of G-d it says: “In every place that you find the greatness of G-d, there you will find His humility.” How much more so should this hold true for a human being created “in the image of G-d.”
According to Kabbalah and Chassidut, the essential rectification of ego occurs through prayer, as stated by King David: “and I am prayer.” TheAmidah, the “silent” prayer, recited three times daily, is divided into three sections, corresponding to the fundamental attitudes deemed necessary for prayer to reflect a true, existential relationship to G-d: acknowledgment, request and praise. In addition, we are taught that our prayers should not be totally inward and silent, but should be enunciated ever so quietly, thereby transmuting thought into speech, which in turn precipitates action.
The statement of the sages: “Would it only be that a person could pray all the day,” reflects not the desire to stand in synagogue all day praying, but rather that our “world view” should emanate from the continuous closeness and humility to G-d that prayer engenders. Paradoxically, the word “humble” shafel, is numerically equal to the word for “pride,” gayut, 410. Ego and pride, when clarified and rectified, give power to an individual–especially a leader–to initiate and inspire. When speech and ego are purified through the crucible of prayer, as expressed in the words of the Psalms: “I speak in prayer,” what follows is the awakening of compassion from on High, as well as from within: “I that speak of righteousness, mighty to save.”