Moses in our Business World

By Jeanine Hage - September 2021


You are a talented leader, and you communicate a sound vision. You have hand-picked a team of A players to carry it out. The results you are getting are not what you had expected, and you are trying to figure out who, what, when and where it went all wrong.

The famous biblical prophet, Moses, may have some answers for you. Moses has been depicted throughout the ages in paintings, sculptures, and other architectural wonders by some of the most prominent artists of all time.

The most celebrated depiction of Moses is the Horns of Moses, an imposing marble sculpture that sits in San Pietro in Rome and was sculpted by the great artist, Michelangelo. The details in the sculpture are impressive and worthy of the Renaissance: the beard, the body, the posture and especially the horns!

In fact, Moses in Michelangelo’s sculpture, has two visible horns on his head! (I’ll give you a few seconds to check the image.)

Michelangelo took the description of Moses from the Latin bible which was translated from the original Hebrew text. The Bible tells us that after Moses’ one-on-one with God, he descended from Mount Sinai carrying the tablets of the Ten Commandments. It has been said that when Moses came down from Mount Sinai, his face shone from his conversation with God.

And this is where things got lost in translation.

The text originally written in Hebrew, refers to the qāran observed on the face of Moses, which means rays of light. The root of the word qāran is qeren which means horns. The Latin translations respected the root of the word (which they are meant to do), therefore described Moses descending from Sinai with two horns on his head.

Blame it on the rudimentary techniques available back then or the lack of eco bulbs or taller candles, but clearly things got rocky along the translation way.

Two small letters, two eternal horns.

So, what meaning does this story have for effective leaders and talented managers? The story is an age-old reminder that communication does not always mean alignment. In my work with brilliant teams, I see horns popping up in the outcome, again and again, even when all stakeholders did their job as expected.

Transformation Management can optimize your ROI, but if you are still on the fence and thinking about what else your budget could be used for, take another minute to reflect on the Horns of Moses.

Let me leave you with the wise words of the illustrious and brilliant writer, George Bernard Shaw, who so aptly sums it all up:
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place”.