Clearly the Nesi'im were not stupid people and their rationale in not donating first must have had some logic behind it. What was the hava amina here, why was it wrong, and what are we to learn from it?
I grasped this Rashi thanks to my experiences at a new workplace. There are two types of mentoring and leadership that go on when you try to teach someone a new task. One type of mentoring involves letting the novice try his/her hand at things and then running around and filling in the gaps that are left. There is another type of mentoring that goes on when you step foward and model a new task start to finish for the novice and then step away and push him/her to do it. The difference between these two methods: the first approach is reactive, in that the mentor must respond and correct the failings of the novice as they occur; the second approach is proactive, in that the mentor first demonstrates and models what should be done and then works with the novice to meet those expectations.
The Nesi'im initially had in mind the first model of mentoring and leadership, and with good reason -- they had little reason to expect that everyone could rise to the challenge of building a
The ideal, however, is the second model. Instead of waiting for others to reach their limits and then start pushing and working to close gaps, a leader should be proactive and step up to encourage others to transcend their limits by demonstrating and embodying the ideal being promoted.