Leadership Is a Privilege
One must be clear to communicate to teens that leadership roles are a privilege, not a right. Leadership roles are an opportunity for teens to be a part of something great. If someone doesn’t step up to the challenge, another person will. This is not unlike Mordechai’s statement to Esther, “If you do nothing, salvation will come from someplace else, but you’ve been given the opportunity to make a difference” (paraphrased from Esther 4:14). Or, as Thomas Paine put it, somewhat more indelicately, “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.”
Teen leadership is a wonderful opportunity, for both the teen and the organization. But an organization must be realistic, recognizing that teens have conflicting commitments and need to learn to balance their priorities. Teen leaders should know that we want them on board, but we can’t wait. The ship is going “full steam ahead” one way or another.
This approach may seem too hard line for some, but it’s treating teens like adults. Being treated as an adult is part of the empowerment and a proven success. ♦
Empowering Students for Social Action
The PANIM model is built around the idea that to become leaders, students must look at the world that is presented to them and figure it out for themselves: how to make it meaningful, how to relate to it, how to find meaning for themselves in it. Once they do that, then they can begin to become leaders committed to social justice.
I’d like to identify the underlying concepts that serve as the foundation for any successful, transformative program designed to create Jewish leaders in political and social activism.
First, assume that every participant has the ability to make a difference. Second, demonstrate this assumption by having the students walk through what it would look like if they took on leadership roles. Third, make it personal—explicitly enabling (and even requiring!) each student to find their own definitions and passions relating to social problems. And finally, but perhaps foremost, root the participants’ experiences in their Jewish values, giving them a foundation upon which to base their work.
Rabbi Tarfon taught that although not one of us is responsible for completing the work of justice, neither can any one of us step back and allow others to do it for us (Pirke Avot 2:22). As a result, we are required as educators to ensure that our lessons reach every student, empowering and inspiring them. Our Panim el Panim seminars engage students from all denominations and backgrounds. We have day school and supplemental school students; those with significant Judaic knowledge and those with none. We have recent immigrants to the US from impoverished countries and highly privileged, empowered students who have every opportunity handed directly to them. From each and every student, we assume the ability to engage with their world and make a significant difference. Of course, not every student will do so immediately, but by beginning with that assumption, those who might otherwise be left out of the conversation are included. This approach signifies to the students their inherent personal value to the larger social-justice movement.
Once you, the educator, have established that each one of your students has this inherent potential, now the task is to enable each student to see himself this way. Political and social activism are, by nature, hands-on endeavors. But, like so many other things in the world, they appear aloof, illusive, and unattainable. Even to our largely privileged, empowered teens, enacting large-scale systemic change feels so out of reach it’s not even worth getting started. Much of the work that we need to do is to help our students come to see social change work as within their reach. We need to provide samples of how they can engage with the issues and what they can choose to do. At PANIM, we run advocacy simulations where the students practice various forms of advocacy, we teach them how to form new “agencies” that address social problems using their personal skills and talents, and they model congressional offices grappling with tough legislative decisions. All of these programs have a shared objective: making it possible for the student to see herself doing these types of activities in the “real world.” If you want your programs to create new leaders, you have to provide opportunities for the students to be leaders and experience leadership. Otherwise you will only reach those who can already see themselves as leaders.
The third component to forming social activist leaders is to have them identify for themselves what it is that they care about and why. We use a definition of political and social activism as being processes through which we can change the world for the better. We ask the students: what’s unclear in this definition? The students focus in on three words: processes, world, and better. Which process will they choose? Will they be involved in political advocacy or direct service? What is their world? Will they work for local causes or against genocide in Darfur? And what does “better” mean to them? Will legalizing gay marriage make the world better? Should our social safety nets be expanded or contracted? Is it better to enter a war in Iran? The ambiguity in our definition is intentional; by requiring students to define these words for themselves, we provide an opportunity for each student to identify what will form the center of his or her social activism.
It is vital that the students have a true voice in their activism: they need to be exposed to a wide range of issues and given an even wider range of possible approaches to dealing with the issues. It should never be assumed that students are liberal or Democrats, for example. Let them learn all sides of an issue; allow them to draw their own conclusions. When Moses began the process of building the mishkan (Tabernacle), he sent out a request to the people: bring offerings from your heart (Exodus 25:2). He didn’t ask those Israelites with last names that begin with A-G to bring wood and those with names beginning with H-L to bring nails, but rather he called on each individual to identify for herself what spoke to her, what ignited her passion, and bring that to beautify the holiest place. He repeats that request again a few chapters later, again asking for offerings of the heart, and the outpouring is so much that it is even more than could be used (Exodus 36:7).
Just like the Israelites, we must ask our students to engage from their heart. Having passionate presentations on issues helps, but so does a simple brainstorming session on response to the question: “What is wrong with your world?” When we send students up to Capitol Hill to lobby, each group begins with a blank slate; we set up a meeting for them, but we do not dictate the issues to be discussed. The group must brainstorm issues, present arguments, come to consensus, and make a script for their meeting. And they all do, stepping up and demonstrating newly developed leadership skills.
Winding through these first three concepts is the fourth: doing all of this from a Jewish stance, interweaving Jewish values throughout the total experience. Connecting a student’s commitment to political and social activism to their Jewish values only serves to strengthen both. By framing what they do with Jewish language, by using Jewish texts alongside policy statements when explaining why a social ill deserves our attention, by giving examples of leaders (both Jewish and not) who embodied our core values as they stood for the rights of the oppressed, we have the opportunity to forge an indelible link between their commitment to justice and their faith. These students will understand that their political and social activism can be as much an expression of their commitment to Judaism as lighting the Shabbat candles or saying the Birkat Hamazon. And they will have an incredible wealth of Jewish values and tradition to bolster their own personal beliefs as to what a just world would look like.
When this all comes together, what we see is nothing short of reassuring. It’s not just what we see from the outspoken kids, the “natural leaders.” From those kids, we expect participation and (at least an appearance of) interest. But what reassures me that we are on the right path is what just happened to me while I was writing this article. I got a phone call from a student from a pluralistic day school that was on my seminar about a few weeks ago. Honestly, I don’t remember him: he didn’t particularly stand out, didn’t speak up at every session, wasn’t pegged as a leader. He called to tell me about a project idea he has for teaching guitar lessons to disadvantaged youth in his area and then holding a fundraising concert with the students as the opening act. Now don’t get me wrong—this is a student who probably would go on to do well in life. He goes to a top school, clearly has artistic talent, and is probably academically proficient. He can find a good career and make a living, but he has now taken the first steps to go beyond just doing well. This is a student who has begun to identify what needs bettering in his own world and has stepped up to lead the response. That is what makes a leader.
Working with a day school population, most of the students are above average and certainly have above-average opportunities and privileges. It is up to us, as their educators, to channel that opportunity in a distinctly Jewish way. When we educate with the belief that we are speaking to every student, when we offer experiences that demonstrate and engage participants leadership and activism, and when we provide the opportunity and the challenge to each student to serve her community from her heart and her Jewish values, we will transform our students into leaders who will truly make the world a better place. ♦
Training to Be a Dugma
As I became more involved I was given various responsibilities by the older USYers who were officers in the chapter. Although we had an adult advisor for the chapter, I noticed that most of the decisions and responsibilities were in the hands of the USY members. As USYers we learned many new skills from proper program planning to budgeting to public speaking. Most of what we learned was taught to us by our peers. As a synagogue youth movement, USY included opportunities for development and utilization of religious skills as well. (Many of which were taught by peers).
Many years later, those of us who acquired our basic leadership skills as USYers have assumed a variety of leadership positions in Jewish and secular life. Many claim that their first introduction to those skills was an integral part of their USY experience. Our entire family benefitted from those opportunities, including my wife who grew up in Huntsville, Alabama! All four of my children learned many valuable lessons as well.
One of the most important lessons we learned is that a leader must be a dugma (an accessible positive Jewish role model). It is for this reason that USY leaders adopted and have maintained a series of standards for regional and international officers which help them to teach others by example. In fact, the adult leadership of our parent body, the USCJ, has chosen to follow the USYers’ example in recent years.
The experiential Jewish education which is a key aspect of the USY experience has many different components. Clearly, the leadership development component can have a lifelong impact.
Cultivating Administrators to Become Heads of School
- The dearth of qualified school leaders. Both public and private schools across the nation report a shortage of qualified headship candidates. This situation will become more severe when, in some parts of the country, nearly sixty percent of principals and heads will retire or resign from their positions during the next five years.
- The lack of a leadership pipeline. A systematic approach to supplying senior leaders has existed in some organizations for many years. These organizations identify high-potential candidates and develop their leadership competencies in anticipation of moving them up the “leadership pipeline.” In education, there is no such pipeline and leaders are rarely promoted from within their own schools.
- The short tenure of heads. A study in 2006 found that the average tenure of heads was three years. Qualified heads do not remain in their positions for extended periods of time, hence many schools are constantly in a state of transition. Therefore, the importance of cultivating administrators from within schools cannot be stressed enough to provide stability and continuity.
Studies by The Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) indicate that serving as a leader today is more complex, requiring new approaches, new mindsets and new skills. The head of a school today must possess all of the skills of a CEO plus the educational background. A head of school needs to be an educational visionary; an instructional and curriculum expert; a psychologist; a community builder; a marketing and public relations guru; a budget analyst; and an overseer of legal, contractual, and policy mandates. Heads are expected to mediate the conflicting interests of parents and teachers, and they need to be sensitive to the widening range of student needs.
In order to effectively handle this multitude of challenging, varied responsibilities, the successful leader must possess distinct characteristics and abilities:
- Developing people: Educational leaders empower teachers and other staff members to do their jobs effectively by providing professional development, intellectual stimulation and administrative support.
- Setting a vision for the school: Successful heads develop a shared vision and motivate followers by ensuring effective communication with all constituents.
- Leading school change: Respected heads create positive and productive school cultures, and lead school change through successful strategic planning.
- Solving problems: Effective heads take risks and engage in efficient problem-solving and decision-making.
- Working well with others: Efficient heads are self aware and build collaborative teams.
Research has shown that sustaining school improvement requires the leadership capacity of all, and that leadership should be distributed throughout the school. Distributed leadership offers more opportunities to put more people into leadership positions, thereby increasing the potential number to rise to the top positions.
Time and resources must be set aside for this leadership development. Opportunities should be extended to high potential staff for continuous growth.
There are at least three possible ways in which administrators can increase their leadership knowledge and skills.
- To participate in a leadership development program;
- To change jobs and assume increased leadership responsibilities; or
- To reshape a current position by adding new challenges.
Participating in a Leadership Development Program
In-service training or professional development programs are available through many sources, including universities, school districts, county and state departments of education, professional associations, regional laboratories for-profit and non-profit organizations, and independent consultants.
One such program, the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI), is the only Jewish professional development program committed to training administrators to assume headships in Jewish day schools. This is a 14 month program consisting of two month-long summer residencies with three retreats during the intervening year.
During the first phase of the institute, participants utilize a number of assessment tools to understand their leadership style. A formal interview with their school supervisors focuses specifically on identifying the candidates’ areas of strength and challenges. A 360° evaluation provides valuable feedback from supervisors, peers and direct reports in the sixteen fundamental skills that are essential for effective leadership. With this data, the participants create a personal developmental plan to be implemented in their schools. Each participant is assigned a personal mentor who provides support, resources and ongoing feedback.
A necessary component of the growth process comes from experiencing challenges which take participants out of their comfort zones. These experiences, coupled with effective support, allow participants to risk, learn and grow. Throughout the course of the institute, participants learn to think like heads of school through readings, case studies, simulations, problem-based learning and targeted exercises. The outcomes of the institute for participants include increased self-confidence and self awareness, knowledge and skills acquisition, and transformational changes.
Ultimately, participants acquire a personal vision of Jewish educational leadership and gain a style that is grounded in self-reflection and Jewish values.
Changing Jobs and Assuming Increased Responsibilities
Perhaps the most difficult way to assume a headship is to enter this position without participating in a formal leadership development program. Such on the job training is not easy. Administrators who move up the ladder to a headship assume increased responsibilities and must learn new skills. To be successful in this scenario, the new head must be buttressed by a support system. Educators or administrators who rise to a headship must be supported in areas where skills are lacking. In such cases, it is helpful to have the availability of an effective board. Providing a leadership coach for the new head may also prove invaluable.
Reshaping a Current Position by Adding New Challenges
It is not necessary to attend a leadership development program or to seek a new position in order to improve leadership skills and abilities. An additional way to cultivate new heads is through developmental assignments. It is possible for educational administrators to remain in their current positions and develop their leadership abilities by taking on new and different assignments. Research at CCL indicates that challenging assignments are a major source of leadership development. When managers and executives are asked to describe key developmental experiences in their careers, 50 to 70% of the experiences they describe are challenges encountered in their responsibilities at work. In such instances, administrators are able to increase their skill set and build confidence in new areas of management.
For those who seek to improve their leadership skills, there are several strategies for taking on new challenges. However, what is most important is finding the right challenge. Ask yourself what skills or behavior do you want to develop. What are your strengths and which are the areas to be developed?
- Take on temporary assignments by trading responsibilities with a trusted colleague;
- Reshape your job by talking with your boss about new responsibilities that could be delegated to you;
- Take on responsibilities that are currently falling between the cracks; and
- Seek challenges and leadership experiences outside the workplace in social, religious or professional organizations.
When taking on new challenges, it is important to be realistic. It may be necessary to drop some current responsibilities.
For heads who seek to develop leadership talent within others, development begins with a fair and accurate appraisal of current strengths and weaknesses as well as an awareness of the competencies required for moving forward. It is necessary to allocate about eight hours per year to develop each direct report.
There are three things that successful heads do to develop others.
They delegate important tasks and decisions. They brainstorm with their direct reports about tasks not being done and out-of-comfort-zone responsibilities. Providing challenge and opportunity builds skill, experience, and confidence. As a result, effective leaders surround themselves with talented people.
They focus on feedback. Successful heads communicate both expectations and results. Feedback should be accurate and balanced and come from multiple people including direct reports and peers.
They motivate, and reward hard work and dedication to excellence. They willingly explain, answer questions and patiently listen to concerns. They give the people that work under them the opportuni5ty to aspire to bigger and better things. They help them expand their perspectives so that they can better judge for themselves what the headship is about and if this is the job for them.
Cultivating administrators and developing a leadership pipeline for the headship of Jewish day schools is a highly significant task due to the imminent retirement of the baby boomers and the lack of trained heads. The importance of this vital leadership role cannot be underestimated. Heads have the responsibility of educating future generations of leaders in Jewish literacy and values, and religious purposefulness and practice. In fact, the continuity of Jewish peoplehood may depend on it! ♦
From the Desk of Susan Weintrob, RAVSAK President
How is leadership nurtured? Those of us in leadership both nurture and are nurtured. This nurturing occurs person by person, in different ways. How do we know how to support leadership in others? How do we know how we as leaders want or need to be supported?
Being on the RAVSAK Executive Board for many years has allowed me to be part of high level discussions about leadership, whether from my colleagues or from national experts. This has been a wonderful opportunity and I thank all of you for this privilege. Reflections about leadership allow us to refine our own style, support the growth of others and construct the process that builds and sustains our schools and organizations. This reflection is not a moment in time, but rather a process of assessment, that all of us are familiar with from classroom practice. We do not grade a paper or give a test and lock in a child’s progress or our own lesson’s excellence for years to come. Rather, we continually assess with diverse tools.
Such has been the process at RAVSAK. The RAVSAK leadership, an Executive Committee of seated heads and Judaic directors, has evolved to meet organizational needs over time, and so, too, has the RAVSAK staff. As you may recall from our Annual Meeting held at the RAVSAK Leadership Conference in January, we have voted in a new governance model to help steward the mission and vision of RAVSAK as it continues to grow and develop. We are now in the midst of forming a pioneer Board of Directors composed of visionary philanthropic leaders working closely with two day school professionals and our Executive Director.
In addition to a new Board of Directors, we will be establishing a robust committee structure wherein lay and professional leaders will attend to the needs of RAVSAK. Standing committees will include Finance, Development, Marketing and Program. We will also be forming a number of working groups including the HaYidion Editorial Committee, a high school committee, and a conference planning group. To nominate a visionary lay leader in your community or to volunteer up your own services, please contact Dr. Marc Kramer at [email protected].
Genuine leadership provides a vision that gives us meaning and purpose. This vision inspires us to have the courage to support change when needed, to find purpose in our lives and to teach those around us to be leaders themselves. This is the vision of RAVSAK. ♦
Encouraging Faculty to Direct Change
Despite the perceived mythology of the principal’s role in school leadership, there are clearly times when standing aside is the most beneficial aspect of good leadership.
In the book Leading Change, John P. Kotter writes about an eight step process of facilitating change. It was clear that Milken needed a change of process and a change of procedures. While we did not create our change process modeled directly on Kotter’s categories, those provide a useful lens for reflecting upon the process within our school.
Establishing a Sense of Urgency
The school has experimented with different ways to engage in social and experiential education for its students, ranging from traditional Shabbatonim to “Intensive Days.” One essential dilemma always concerns how best to cover ongoing classes when faculty are either on a trip or Shabbaton. This is a dilemma for faculty, for students and for the administration, as instruction is interrupted, records regarding coverage must be maintained, and inevitably there are conflicts among staff and faculty regarding who should go, who should stay, and who should cover. It was this unending interruption which created the urgency to develop a plan and process to meet multiple needs simultaneously.
An important decision, made by the Principal of the Middle School, Dr. Sarah Shulkind, was to move Middle School trips to the week after Pesach vacation. While the primary reason for this concerned creating time for Middle School students to engage in simultaneous trips to Washington, Israel and Catalina Island, this decision paved the way for subsequent change in the Upper School.
Creating the Guiding Coalition
In many ways the guiding coalition existed before the immediacy of a needed change. Faculty and administration had been talking about the issue of continued interruption for several years. However, under the leadership of the then Director of Student Life, Mr. David Lewis, a group of teachers coalesced and began the visioning and dreaming process, including an afternoon retreat at my home where the vision was developed to bring trips and the benefits of travel into a single week’s experience. At the same time, the group decided to experiment with Intensive Days, days when while one class might be having a Shabbaton experience, all other classes would also be engaged in experiential learning.
Developing a Vision and a Strategy
Over the space of three years, the vision and strategy evolved and changed. The experiment with three days of Intensive Days solved the problem of class coverage and substitution, yet it also created an expectation that Intensive Days were not “school days,” and that attendance was optional. Additionally, Intensive Days required intensive planning, for the task of moving 600 students around the city of Los Angeles and its environs is, well, intensive. The demand to prepare three days of curriculum planning for three grade levels with appropriate logistical and instructional support was burdensome.
It soon became apparent to the “Trip Week” committee that a dedicated trips week would be both easier to plan and easier to support, and would create the expectation that all students would be involved in some trip of some fashion. Using the Hebrew word tiyulim for trips then became both a focal point and a rallying point. Additionally, the framework of Tiyulim Week would involve a degree of student choice. The group also knew that the week after Pesach would be the time for Tiyulim Week as it provided appropriate planning time and would serve to minimize the interruptions to ongoing instruction. There is no “formal” instruction during Tiyulim Week; however, the faculty gained a week of instruction by moving the trips week to post-Pesach.
Communicating the Change Vision
Decisions regarding moving Middle School trips was made in the 07-08 academic year. By spring, it was apparent that a change in how the school implemented experiential education was needed. As principal of the school, I held several meetings with the department chairs and faculty groups, and the urgency of the decision was discussed. It was necessary, for example, for the Athletic Director to move all games and practices in order to allow all students equal access to the tiyul being offered.
Empowering Employees for Broad-Based Action
While several of Kotter’s suggested steps for planning and change are important, this single step is the most important, and for us it happened in a rather formal way. Like any school, authority and power tend to belong to the administration—a normal and expected reality. By September of 2008, it was apparent that experiential education planning was very important to two faculty members, Mr. Pavel Lieb and Rabbi Yechiel Hoffman.
In October of 2008, I asked these two faculty members to present the plans and concepts and vision to the faculty as a whole, remarking that this was now their project. From that single moment, change began to occur in fascinating ways. The faculty began to develop courses, they created talk among the student body, subsequent focus groups were held, and the plan was announced through the advisory program.
Every teacher was asked if they wished to submit a course proposal. By this time the faculty and the student body had altered the strict definition of tiyul into the concept of “course” which also contained a trip. Faculty ideas were reviewed by the Tiyulim Task Force, outlines were written by the interested staff, and students were also invited to submit “course” ideas. This Task Force met several times to outline a change process and create appropriate timelines and guidelines for course and program development.
Generating Short Term Wins
After the teachers generated a workable plan, the next step was to present to parents and the community, since after all, we were asking them to be involved in a different kind of learning for which they had to pay extra. This was an important framing concern—what would each tiyul cost?
By January of 2009, we produced a course catalog and a web site so that all students and all parents could see course proposals. Given the idea that Grade 7, 8, and 9 were on class trips, that one third of grade 10 was in Israel, and that one half of grade 12 was on the March of the Living, we calculated that the tiyulim trips would service 250-280 students. We then asked students to sign up for Tiyul at approximately the same time that they were choosing classes in advisory for next year. The process involved bringing the concept of “signing up” into the same chronology. To help facilitate all this, we developed a database in FileMakerPro which could track sign ups,registrations, and money paid.
Because in most cases, students were given a range of choice about tiyulim, their buy in increased, and an elective process ensued. The range of tiyulim being offered was large, from a student-led initiative for Habitat for Humanity, to a teacher-led initiative about understanding the role of Judaism in the writing of comic strips, to other teacher-led initiatives on exploring the Santa Monica mountains. One tiyul was restricted to students who are taking a unique integrated and interdisciplinary course in American Studies, and three tiyulim were canceled due to low enrollment. The total program involves 800 students in six grades with trips being offered to Israel, Washington, Catalina Island, and the local Los Angeles area.
Anchoring New Approaches in the Culture
As the program begins, as the program continues, and as it develops in the future, the real beneficiary is the culture of the school. The faculty has learned that they can envision, articulate, and implement change in programming on several different levels. Despite the perceived mythology of the principal’s role in school leadership, there are clearly times when standing aside is the most beneficial aspect of good leadership. In many ways, the school has learned a “self-organizing” principle discussed by Wheatley (2000) as she writes, “If we are to develop organizations of greater and enduring capacity, we have to turn to the people of our organizations. We have to learn how to encourage the creativity and commitment that they wanted to express when they first joined the organization.” ♦
Inspiring Innovation in Jewish Day Schools
In a time when children pick up so much about their environment accidentally, Jewish education encourages decision-making and relationship building intentionally.
Maintenance learning is “the acquisition of fixed outlooks, methods and rules for dealing with known and recurring situations.” We have an established way of life, and we maintain that through inculcating people into accepted practices, rituals and the values of that lifestyle.
We know that much of both education and leadership within Jewish day schools is centered on maintenance learning. We have chosen a particular Jewish lifestyle and want the classroom to be a place that is informed by those values. We expect teachers and administrators to conform to certain norms and also to transmit them. Living in a general culture that places individual autonomy above community and consumer empowerment above spiritual development, we know better than to take our values for granted. In a time when children pick up so much about their environment accidentally, Jewish education encourages decision-making and relationship building intentionally. Maintenance learning can be a formidable challenge in a society that maintains competing values.
Bennis describes shock learning as exactly the opposite of maintenance learning. It is the study of and reaction to situations and experiences that are out of the ordinary. They may be tragic or remarkably touching or overwhelming; they are experiences of intensity that may call into question the very norms that we have established so carefully in maintenance learning. No learning community can avoid shock learning because it emerges out of the unpredictability of life itself. We have an obligation to prepare our students for moments that surprise or confuse us, whether such times are as “anticipated” as becoming a parent or losing a parent (becoming a parent or losing a parent is always a shock), or global terrorism.
Taken together, maintenance and shock learning create a balance, preparing us for that which is expected in life while offering skills for navigating the ambiguities we will encounter along the way.
And yet, this research in learning calls both of these methods conventional. Bennis recommends a different approach, innovative learning, which rests on three central principles:
- Anticipation: being active and imaginative rather than passive and habitual;
- Receptivity: learning by listening to others;
- Participation: sharing events rather than being shaped by them.
These qualities rely less on molding the student through texts and experiences than on empowering the student to be engaged actively in the learning process. Innovative learning moves us beyond material and reactions to events within or beyond our control. It asks us to embrace what we learn by taking charge of our learning, while including and collaborating with others.
Arguably one of the most significant roles for educational leaders is creating and sustaining multiple modalities of learning within school environments. The day school is no different. In many ways, because of the propensity of maintenance learning in Jewish day schools, we have to be more conscious of innovative learning or the absence of it. It is too easy to create passive students and teachers when the material you are teaching may be over two thousand years old and when replicating patterns of learning that are just as old. Because of the strong precedent of the rabbi/talmid relationship, we may demand that our students listen more than our teachers listen. In prayer and special events, we may expect our students to conform and be shaped by an experience rather than have them take ownership and shape the experiences. We make demands of day school students that rely a great deal on their patience or a maturity they have not yet developed. We do not check in frequently enough with them as inherent boredom monitors.
The most basic definition of a leader is one who has followers. People may follow a leader out of forced conformity or out of love and inspiration. If we are prepared to ask ourselves some difficult questions about day school education today, we cannot avoid the question of what kind of learning educational leaders in our schools are promoting. Is it maintenance learning with the shock provisos when appropriate, or is it truly innovative? Do we pay lip service to words like “innovation” and “transformation” but retreat to our old ways out of fear or reverence, or are words like this actually descriptive of what we do and think?
Some of our American Jewish day schools have been around for more than 60 years. They have serviced their communities well, but have they changed significantly in curricular approaches from when they began decades earlier? We have had sea changes in approaches to education, yet not enough of this language of change has trickled into the Jewish classroom or the Judaic studies faculty, in particular. It may be that the headmaster or principal uses different language while the faculty as a whole are not moving in any new direction. It may be that one member of the constellation of teacher/child/parent in the learning world of Judaism has not been informed or is distrustful of taking educational risks to make school a more exciting and vibrant place to learn.
Managers maintain the status quo. They follow orders and make sure that we all observe the rules and policies or an organization. In Jewish terms, they create seder or order. They are less concerned with the day-to-day running of an institution than with the vision of where their institution should go in the future. Leaders must be risk takers and innovators. If they can inspire and persuade us with their vision, all the better. But too many people in leadership roles in education act as managers and not as leaders and visionaries.
Every day we are ushering our children into a brave new world. It is a global world and one where technology and methods of communication are constantly changing. The Jewish day school can be a protected haven against these changes. It also has to be adaptive, growing and accommodating these changes. Day school leaders, both lay and professional, can fight change or nurture change, but none of us can ignore it. Leading in this landscape is not merely about being in a position of power; it is about creating a posture of influence where learning is dynamic and innovative. ♦
Nurturing in Day Schools Women’s Leadership
What exactly is going on? The position of women in day school leadership is better than it has ever been; women are well represented at the top tiers of educational leadership. According to the AVI CHAI Foundation’s 2007 survey of day school principals, nearly half (45%) of the principals of US day schools are women—a percentage that includes the Orthodox day schools, which are almost exclusively run by men.
In addition to the statistical reality, there is a clear consensus among much of the day school leadership that women’s voices are necessary in the highest rungs of Jewish educational institutions. Dr. Elliot Spiegel, headmaster at Solomon Schechter Day School of Westchester, stresses the importance of having a multiplicity of voices around the table. “Men and women have a different approach to everything: to leadership, to education, to G-d. After 40 years in this profession, it’s remarkable how noticeable [that] is when you sit around a table with women and men.”
Still, the AVI CHAI report shows that an important imbalance among principals remains.
Gender is a powerful factor in salary determinations, with women principals being paid significantly below what men earn… In their first year of service at their current school, no men earned below $60,000, while 10% of the women did. At the other end of the pay scale, there were men who earned above $180,000 in their first year, but no women. Ten percent of first-year women are in the three highest salary categories of $120,000 or above. The comparable statistic for men is nearly 40%. For principals who have served between 5-10 years at their present school, one-quarter of the women were paid above $120,000, while for men the figure is close to 60%...There can be no question that gender is a major factor in what principals are paid.
While great strides have been made, the financial glass ceiling has yet to be broken.
Yet the people I spoke with who are concerned about women’s roles in day schools do not spend much time complaining about the financial disparity. On a day-to-day basis, few people know what their colleagues are making. Instead, what they describe is a more subtle, nagging feeling of inequality, one that is not so easily articulated but that permeates the workplace.
Dr. Marc Kramer, Executive Director of RAVSAK, has noticed that men and women tend to end up in different roles, despite the appearance of high participation by women at the highest levels of educational leadership. High schools are mostly headed by men, while most of the lower schools are headed by women. “Schools function in loco parentis,” says Kramer. “The parent for which the school is serving proxy for in the lower school is Mommy. In the upper school it’s Daddy.” Women tend to be in the “caring profession” side of education—as teachers, department chairs, even principals—rather than the business side of education, as financial officers or heads of schools. “It’s like the difference between doctors and nurses. Doctors cure and nurses heal.”
Kramer also worries about the reality that women in the Jewish community are being at once encouraged to grow as leaders, and not to abandon pre-assigned family roles. Several women report that their schools have not opened up to different models of work/life balance, and there is still, in many places, an expectation to work around the clock. Penina Grossberg, educational consultant, suggests that nurturing women’s leadership would mean creating new styles of acceptable leadership. “We would create multiple constellations of professional options; look at the responsibilities and figure out how they could get done, instead of looking at the way the previous person worked and copying that. Just because someone worked 24/7 doesn’t mean we all should.” And she argues that this model is important for the larger community as a whole. “The best teachers are also learners. If you expect the professional leaders to neglect their family life and to show up at every meeting at their own personal expense, then what are you modeling for your students and for your communities?”
In some schools, women describe a sense that they are thinking in new ways about the work and the school systems, but they are having trouble getting their voices heard. Even when they do sit around the table, they feel reluctance among male colleagues to consider new perspectives, and some report that traditional stereotypes of men and women are still at play around boardroom tables. When women put forth new ideas, they are often described as aggressive, while men in the same situations are often celebrated for their innovative spirits. As one educator explains, “A young guy with commanding ideas fresh out of school is seen as confident where a woman might be seen as pushy and arrogant.”
In addition, several women described their sense that the path to the top requires far more time for them than for their male colleagues. One woman, a Judaic Studies department chair, reported that she has seen a number of men catapulted into leadership positions after only a few years in the classroom, whereas women seemed to need to “put in their time” in the classroom for many more years before climbing up the institutional ladders.
Despite these reports of disparity, both men and women agree that building gender equity must be a crucial piece of a Jewish educational vision, as young men and women learn from the models they see in their own schools. Dr. Spiegel claims, “The question is really: how do we nurture women’s leadership for twenty years from now? We have to nurture the idea of female leadership, giving women the authority, the prominence and the responsibility, so that they are visible in all areas of the school setting, from the classroom to the administration.”
Of course, recognizing the problem is a good first step. Rabbi Joshua Elkin, executive director at PEJE, recommends that the Jewish institutional community create a research agenda about women’s roles in Jewish day schools. In each community, questions should be asked about the perception of inequity, since what feels like equal treatment differs by population, even in the same school setting. Such a survey might include questions like: 1) Are both genders represented around the table? 2) Is there only one model of leadership, or are different models encouraged? 3) When different or uncomfortable ideas are voiced, are they pooh-poohed or are they welcomed into the conversation?
Shifra Bronznick, founding President of Advancing Women Professionals and the Jewish Community, says that it’s hard for people to look honestly at their own communities, but it is an imperative element of creating lasting change. “Most people want to justify the system. I don’t buy into the idea that ‘if that’s the way it is, that’s the way it should be; there must be a reason.’ Instead, ‘the system is off… there may not be a good reason.’”
In the book she wrote with Didi Goldenhar and Marty Linsky, Leveling the Playing Field: Advancing Women in Jewish Organizational Life, Bronznick and her co-authors suggest that one of the keys to building gender equity is opening paths to develop new leadership. They propose a number of steps to take in this process.
- Create a structure for scouting and developing talent
- Cultivate a professional learning environment
- Seek opportunities for showcasing
- Add coaching and mentoring to the menu
Their suggestions include ways to make career advancement more equitable, by identifying talented professionals in an institution and encouraging them to articulate the skills they would like to develop. Leaders should invite high-potential women to important meetings as observers and look for “stretch” opportunities for women in the field, such as leading a special project or new committee, or participating in a cross-departmental strategy team.
It is certain that the Jewish community has made progress in building gender equity in the last decades, but there is still work to be done. Perhaps most important is to make it safe for our colleagues to offer institutional critique without fear of retaliation or subtle intimidation. ♦
Editor’s note: In 2006, RAVSAK was the only day school network to take part in The Conference on Change, a retreat focused on Jewish women, Jews of color, and LGBT Jews. Since then, we have dedicated entire issues of HaYidion to issues of diversity and equity and are proud to note that in this issue of HaYidion on leadership, 11 of 17 feature articles are written by women.
When Strict Truth Isn’t the Answer
Although the biblical text seems to implicate Aaron, his motives can be construed either way. This ambiguity, of course, is precisely what makes it such fertile ground for the rabbis, who use it as an opportunity to comment on the desired character traits of leaders.
Let us explore two very different midrashim on Aaron’s role in this incident. In Leviticus Rabbah 7:1, Aaron takes a hammer to destroy the Golden Calf, proclaiming its falsehood. This was a cardinal mistake, says the midrash, as the people, once informed of the magnitude of their sin, are liable to greater punishment. For this, Aaron is punished, perhaps even put in the category of the sinners himself. Better to err innocently than to know the magnitude of your sin, suggests this text.
This is puzzling. After all, Aaron was proclaiming a central Jewish truth – that there is nothing real or substantive in an idol. Isn’t this what our prophets, from Jeremiah to Elijah, did repeatedly, usually at G-d’s behest? What are we to make of a midrash that castigates this type of leadership?
Let us compare this midrash with another one also found in Leviticus Rabbah (10:3). In this scenario, Aaron’s motives are much more altruistic: he decides to take the blame, as it were, for the building of the Calf. That is, Aaron knows full well that the building of the Calf constitutes idol worship, yet he seemingly participates in it so that he can take responsibility for the transgression and thereby save the people from punishment. He casts his lot with the people, even though they have strayed from the truth. And for this, the midrash tells us in effusive language, he is rewarded with the priesthood.
This text is also puzzling: Aaron willfully transgresses a core Jewish commandment—the prohibition against idol worship—in order to mitigate the consequences of a sin. What are we to make of this?
Consider the two values set forth by these midrashim: strict truth on the one hand versus Peoplehood on the other. Strict truth, it seems, is not always the right policy. Aaron’s stance in the first text is patronizing and paternalisitic: he knows better than the people and he loudly proclaims it. He sets himself above them in a show of force, not a desirable trait for a leader. Perhaps sometimes, it is better to bend the truth in order to be unified with the masses. The sense of belonging to one’s people, what we today call Peoplehood, and the willingness to take responsibility for one’s people, even at great personal cost, outweighs the strict truth. This is the tempering message of the second text.
Truth vis-à-vis G-d versus responsibility vis-à-vis the Jewish people. In the rabbis’ imagination, there are times when G-d bows out of the contest, leaving us humans to focus less on Him and more on each other. It may be counter-intuitive, but it’s a powerful lesson that can be applied to our leadership in the community.
Surely, there are times when we feel the need to vindicate our position on a communal issue because we know, perhaps correctly, that it is the best or even the only way to achieve our goal. Yet at what cost do we defend our position? Will it cause our colleagues to see us as too hierarchical, and worse, will it cause them emotional harm? Might our assertive approach set us up to fail even if it is adopted? Is it better in some cases to go along with what we consider a misguided idea that has already taken root?
These are difficult questions, and no doubt, they are contextual and highly subjective. What works for one Jewish organization may not work for another. What is proper for one situation may not be for another.
Yet, in contrasting the values of Truth vs. People, the rabbis of old encourage us to consider the idea that the truth should sometimes be trumped by other values, including the need to foster community. Perhaps this type of balance is the broader Truth of Jewish living. ♦
Leading from Within: Aaron and the Golden Calf
Leviticus Rabbah 7:1
א”ר אסי מלמד שהיה אהרן נוטל קרבנם ופוחסו לפניהם ואומר להם דעו שאין בו ממש הוא שמשה אמר לאהרן (שמות לב) מה עשה לך העם הזה אמר לו מוטב היה להן שידונו שוגגין ואל ידונו מזידים הוא שהקב”ה אמר למשה (שם שמות לב) מי אשר חטא לי אמחנו מספרי הה”ד (דברים ט:כ) ובאהרן התאנף ה’ מאד להשמידו וגו’.
R. Assi said: Scripture teaches, by inference, that Aaron took a hammer and battered it [the Golden Calf] in their presence and said to them: “Know ye that there is nothing real in it!” That is what Moses alluded to when he said to Aaron: “What did this people do unto you, that you have brought a great sin upon them?” (Ex. 32:21). Better that Israel be judged as having sinned in error, than as having sinned presumptuously. That was also why the Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Moses: Whoever has sinned against Me, him will I blot out from My book (ibid. 33). This too, is indicated by what is written: “Moreover, the Lord was very angry with Aaron to have destroyed him” (Deut. 9:20).
Leviticus Rabbah 10:3
וירא אהרן מה ראה אמר אהרן אם בונין הן אותו הסרחון נתלה בהן מוטב שיתלה הסרחון בי ולא בישראל רבי אבא בר יודן בשם ר’ אבא משל לבן מלכים שנתגאה לבו עליו ולקח את הסייף לחתך את אביו א”ל פדגוגו אל תייגע את עצמך תן לי ואני חותך הציץ המלך עליו א”ל יודע אני להיכן היתה כוונתך מוטב שיתלה הסרחון בך ולא בבני חייך מן פלטין דידי לית את זייע ומותר פתורי את אכיל עשרים וארבע אנונס את נסיב כך מן פלטין דילי לית את זייע ומן המקדש לא יצא ומותר פתורי את אכיל והנותר מן המנחה עשרים וארבעה אנונס את נסיב אלו כ”ד מתנות כהונה שניתנו לאהרן ולבניו אמר לו הקב”ה לאהרן אהבת צדק אהבת לצדק את בני ושנאת מלחייבן על כן משחך אלקים אלקיך אמר לו חייך שמכל שבטו של לוי לא נבחר לכהונה גדולה אלא אתה.
“And Aaron saw this” – What did Aaron see? He saw [the situation thus]: If they build it, the sin will attach to them; better that the stench should attach to me and not to Israel. Rabbi Abba bar Yudin said in the name of Rav Abba: This may be compared to the case of a king’s son who became very overbearing and took a sword to cut his father. Said the son’s tutor to him: “Do not trouble yourself, leave it to me and I shall cut him.” The king glanced at the tutor and said to him: “I know what your intention was, namely, that you thought it better that the sin should attach to you rather than to my son. As you live, you shall not leave my palace, and that which remains over from my table you shall eat, 24 perquisites will you receive.” So, too with Aaron, “You shall not leave my palace,” is paralleled by “He shall not go out of the sanctuary” (Lev. 21:12). “And that which remains over from my table, you shall eat,” is [paralleled by] “That which is left of the meal-offering shall be Aaron’s and his sons’” (ibid. 3); “24 perquisites you will receive” is [paralleled by] the 24 gifts of the priesthood assigned to Aaron and his sons. The Holy One, Blessed be He, said to Aaron, “You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness, you have loved to keep my children guiltless and hated letting them be condemned as guilty. Therefore God has anointed you with the oil of gladness above your fellows.” He said to him, “As you live, out of the whole tribe of Levi, none is chosen for the High Priesthood but you.” ♦
Nurturing the Leader Within
The head of school has the power to lead the staff in the direction that will help make vision a reality.
A valuable asset to Jewish education is a compassionate and skilled staff. Sherry Blumberg states (Jewish Educational Leader’s Handbook) that the focus of a school is learning, of which the staff must be a part of, both as individuals and as participants in a team. I have found and absorbed, as Ms. Blumberg states, that the purpose of professional development is not only to enhance pedagogical skills and Jewish content knowledge, but also to assist in improving the culture of the school as the staff become participants working together to ensure the continuity of Jewish life.
Once a philosophical vision is developed, the head of school has the power to lead the staff in the direction that will help make this vision a reality. Professional development is a productive and powerful tool that can facilitate this vision. School leadership must be aware of the fact that they are forging a path to develop teachers, and that teachers need time and encouragement to think about teaching.
Research on the effect of professional development suggests the expansion of a common language for teachers to examine curricular issues, texts, and the need for peer mentoring. Change is slow and progressive as educational knowledge is shared. Robert Marazano (2003) indicates that the effectiveness of the individual educator and the school dramatically affects student achievement. A school’s leader knows that it is his/her responsibility to the teachers and students to model an inquisitive style of leading. There is a shift toward a collaborative model of professional development practices, allowing for faculties to function as effective learning communities. The trend toward peer coaching, action research, and mentoring are all part of the model for teacher-led professional development.
The purpose of professional development is not only to enhance pedagogical skills and Jewish content knowledge, but also to assist in improving the culture of the school as the staff become participants working together to ensure the continuity of Jewish life.
As the president of the Principal’s Association Council in Miami, Greenfield’s principal Dr. Lee Binder presented Project Day School Excellence to our faculty this year. She created the opportunity for the teachers to learn alongside their students about the school’s technology program. Each teacher participated in a year-long program empowering them to be more technologically knowledgeable, while creating consensus to implement peer to peer training. She formed a leadership team to provide a way for teachers to become increasingly accomplished instructors for the benefit of the students. In her words, “Using this forum for professional development validates Stephen Covey’s principle…begin with the end in mind. This process has helped our faculty evolve into stronger teachers and stronger leaders on their educational journey.”
When I came back to school, after the first summer course with SuLaM, Dr. Binder gave me room to soar. She encouraged my enthusiasm and sharing my experience with others. I recognized, however, that I could not create change personally without a serious commitment to becoming a leader myself. With support from The Central Agency for Jewish Education in Miami, teachers were being offered an opportunity to attain a master’s degree in Jewish Studies. Once again being assisted by my local community, I worked for a year and a half and have successfully achieved my goal.
Along the way have been other opportunities for professional development which have nurtured my growth as a leader. Through RAVSAK I recently participated in a training program on social justice. Attending RAVSAK’s annual conference and learning from top educational leaders in the world of Jewish education has been invaluable. This summer I will be a participating Fellow in the Day School Leadership Training Institute in New York at the Jewish Theological Seminary.
In the 1969 song “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,” the lyrics state: “The road is long with many a winding turn that leads us to where, who knows when…His welfare is of my concern...no burden is he to bear… We’ll get there for I know he would not encumber me…It’s a long, long road from which there is no return… While we’re on the way to there why not share…and the load
doesn’t weigh me down at all.” I know for certain: if it had not been for the vision of my principal to see the leader within me, nurturing the seeds of leadership within, I may not have been given these vast opportunities. In her wisdom, she knew it would not impede her and only benefit our learning community and our children. On the shoulders of others have I been uplifted so that I might “pay it forward.” How fortunate am I! ♦
Leadership During Uncertain Times
Reflect on how you overcame past difficulties. What strengths did you draw on then?
As Rabbi Tsvi Blanchard, one of my colleagues, teaches, it is instructive to look at the story of Moses, one of the greatest leaders in our history, for an answer. Moses grows up in the lap of luxury. He is a royal prince living in Pharaoh’s palace. Yet Moses also knows he is a Hebrew. When he witnesses an Egyptian beating a Hebrew slave, he acts out of anger and kills the Egyptian. When the matter becomes known, he runs for his life. Place yourself in Moses’ shoes for a moment. What would it be like to lose everything? He runs away from the palace with only the clothes on his back. He loses his family, friends, and royal status. And he loses all of his material possessions and money. The crisis Moses faces is far greater than the one we are facing today. So how does Moses react?
When he arrives in Midian he sits by a well and observes some women trying to water their flock. Shepherds harass the women and push them away from the well. “Moses rose to their defense and he watered their flock.” (Exodus 3:17) The very first thing Moses does after suffering huge personal loss is to help another person. He does not panic. He does not mourn. He looks around and sees how he can be of assistance. Then he gets to work. It is very easy to get swallowed up by feelings of helplessness and hopelessness when facing what seem like insurmountable challenges. But strong leaders do not allow themselves to get stuck there.
If you or your school is in crisis, step back for a minute before you react. Take a moment to gauge your own temperature. Ask yourself how you are feeling and write down the emotions you are experiencing. At a gathering of New Jewish Communal Professionals last month many expressed feelings of anger, loss, hopelessness and denial over the current economic crisis. All of their agencies, UJCs, JCCs, and JFSs have experienced budget shortfalls and cuts in staff. Morale is low. Many day schools are experiencing the same situation. All of these emotions are normal, and are to be expected given the sudden shift in our fortunes. It is good to voice them. But do not stop there.
Our tradition is rich in stories of people who lost everything and then continued on. Joseph was sold into slavery by his own brothers, falsely accused of rape, and sent to rot in prison. Naomi lost her husband and two sons when she was living in a foreign land and was left bereaved and destitute. Neither of these characters gives in to bad fortune. Joseph trusted his instincts and continued to interpret dreams for the other prisoners, one of whom tells Pharaoh of his ability. Joseph then rises up to second-in-command of the nation. Naomi picks herself up and decides to go back to her homeland. To her surprise, Ruth, her daughter-in-law, decides to come with her. Following Naomi’s directions Ruth finds food for both of them, and through a series of events marries Boaz, the owner of many fields, and is credited with being the foremother of King David.
Joseph, Moses and Naomi all suffer great personal losses. But each of them is able to look inside themselves and connect with his or her core values and mission in this world. Being able to know yourself and act on that knowledge is a true sign of leadership.
All of us have experienced personal hardship in the past. Take a moment to reflect on how you overcame past difficulties. What strengths did you draw on then? What support systems do you have now? Much has been made about President Barack Obama’s cabinet, and how he has put together a team of rivals in the tradition of Abraham Lincoln. Having a large pool of advisors is exactly what you need to conquer adversity, both as an individual and as a school. No one is expecting you to solve all of the problems by yourself. Good leaders know when to draw on the strengths of others. Think about whom you can call on for advice. When you feel anxious or stuck, reach out to someone for help.
Truly take stock of the resources of your own school community. What can parents, teachers, students, and staff add to the conversation? Are there voices you have not been listening to? Who outside of your community do you want to solicit for assistance? You may not have the answers yourself, but you can shape an environment and a process out of which answers will emerge.
The most important point right now is not to get stuck in your fear. We have all read Spencer Johnson’s great book, Who Moved My Cheese? The characters in the book have to adjust to a whole new economic climate. They cannot continue to go to the same sources to get their “cheese,” their sustenance. The have to find new “cheese.” One of the best lessons in the book is from the mice “Sniff” and “Scurry.” Not only do the mice realize that they need to adapt to a new reality, but they are also not afraid of failure. They go into the maze to find new opportunities without fear. Sometimes they fail to find “cheese” and hit dead ends, and sometimes they succeed.
As we adjust to our new economic realities, we are often painfully aware that we might fail—fail to bring in money, fail to keep a school open. And there are times that we might fail. But we are in good company if we do so. Even the greatest leader of all, G-d, sometimes experiences failure. Time and again in the Torah we read stories where humans defy G-d’s orders and expectations. Before the flood, humans are so immoral; G-d recognizes that G-d’s creation is a disaster. G-d, as a creator, as a leader, has failed. Sometimes even when we put forth our best efforts, we do not succeed.
But what happens after the flood? G-d begins again. It is a new day. The sun shines and the colors of the rainbow dance across the land. We too will be able to adjust to our new realities, and begin again. Take this time to assess yourself, assess your school’s resources, bring people together for conversations, and do not be afraid of failure. The only failure of leadership is to not try to find a new path, a new direction for your school to take. Now is the time to think outside the box. Try methods or ideas you have not tried before. Take a few risks. The worst that happens is that you need to try again. You have the tools you need to be a leader during this time. May G-d be with you. ♦
Nurturing Leaders for the Board of Trustees
This positive and joyous image—a dancer celebrating Jewish life and expanding the circle to include more and more dancers—provides a simple definition of the kind of empowering energy we need in the leaders of our Jewish day school boards of trustees.
How do such people know they are needed at that moment? Where do they get that sense that they should “get things going” more intensely and that courage to take action? Did someone actively nurture their awareness, their vision, and their ability to inspire?
If the leaders of the dance can be actively developed, can we also nurture trustees who can look at their school boards, see what’s going well and what’s missing, and then take energetic and inclusive steps toward greater achievement?
Of course we can. Let us take a look at some of the informal and formal ways we can develop board leaders.
Scouting for Talent—the Job of Every Jewish Leader
In an informal way, all dedicated leaders of the Jewish community are busy searching for talented Jews of all ages. They are keeping their eyes open locally and nationally, getting to know who might like to get more engaged, matching institutional needs to individuals’ interests and skills. They include in their own leadership practice the responsibility for developing outstanding colleagues and successors, for nurturing Jewish life by mentoring the professional and volunteer leaders who will ensure that Jewish day schools and other key institutions of Jewish life will be well governed and well managed. These are the leaders who encourage young people in their teens and twenties to pursue careers as teachers, rabbis, or other Jewish communal workers. They are also the people who introduce themselves to newcomers and encourage them to attend an event or volunteer for a worthy cause—all the while keeping an eye on them for potential leadership ability.
These individuals know that engaging Jews in communal life and service inspires them to reach their fullest potential and creates the most vibrant kind of community. Like the leader in the circle dance, they know there is room for all in the Jewish circle and that the dancing of each one increases the joy of all.
No one appoints these talent scouts. Theirs is not a formal assignment. Yet there is simply no substitute for the courage and chutzpah of leaders who continuously recruit and mentor new leaders of the Jewish community. Once they have you engaged, they are the people who guide you through ethical dilemmas; who stand by you saying, “We will get through this crisis together”; who go with you to ask for a critical donation or to confront a formidable opponent. They are also the ones who are not afraid to confront and challenge you to reach your own potential.
I have been blessed by the teaching of a number of such mentors and have also seen the impact of their guidance on a generation of board leaders in my hometown of Atlanta. Everyone they touched has served with greater dedication to Jewish life and with the desire to follow their example and nurture others.
The Committee on Trustees: Formalizing Talent Search and Development
A board’s most important asset may well be an effective Committee on Trustees (also called the Governance Committee), because it officially harnesses the power of informal talent scouts and mentors. The Committee on Trustees creates and maintains a board with the right combination of personal qualities, skills, and interests to govern and to help the school fulfill its mission. Think of this committee as the board’s personnel or human resources department. It is continuously scouting for prospective talent, screening out false leads, selecting the best, getting to know them through non-board assignments, and lining them up for future openings. When prospective trustees are invited to join the board, this committee explains what trustees are expected to do and how the board will support their leadership development. This will include an orientation and an induction process with buddies or mentors to help new trustees get started and grow.
Is this different from what school managers do when they hire, orient, and support outstanding educational and operations staff? It is exactly parallel except that the Committee on Trustees offers no salaries.
Thinking of board service as an unpaid job with training, support, and performance evaluation reframes less-demanding concepts of the trustee volunteer role. I believe this willingness to ask and expect a lot of trustees is critically important and well supported by the fiduciary duties that actually bind board members under the law.
What Do We Mean by Leadership Potential?
Before “hiring” trustees, it’s important to get to know them and observe their volunteer style. Try them out in non-board roles or as a member of a board committee.
Each board will be looking for trustees with the particular skills, experiences, and backgrounds needed to fulfill its current strategic goals. At the same time, every desirable trustee will bring a collection of positive personal characteristics from the following clusters:
- Self-understanding and confidence
Look for people with personal integrity; demonstrated commitment to the school’s mission and vision of Jewish education; the ability to form and articulate a thoughtful perspective; willingness to take personal responsibility; self-control; self-awareness; initiative; optimism; resilience.
- Interpersonal relationships
Look for empathy and respect; the ability to read another person’s social signals; ability to communicate thoughts and feelings; active listening skills; appreciation of diverse backgrounds and styles.
- Interpersonal leadership skills
Look for skill in decision making; group processing; mediation; managing conflict; giving and receiving feedback.
- Organizational leadership skills
Look for the ability to plan a course of action, define roles and divide up work to manage a project; capability in time management; facilitation; team-building; group dynamics.
How Do You Nurture New Board Members?
Make sure this is a high quality experience that addresses trustee roles and responsibilities, principles of good practice for trustees and this board, and the school’s strategic plan.
- Demonstrate good practice
New trustees will learn by example. They must see good governance in action—that board meetings use time well; that veteran trustees prepare and attend; that discussion is meaningful and considers multiple perspectives; that confidentiality is preserved; that trustees are eager to learn more and receive formal education about how to fulfill their board roles effectively and improve their practice. They must see trustees fulfilling their responsibility as financial supporters and goodwill ambassadors for the school. They must see a positive and supportive partnership between the board and the head of school.
Give all trustees manageable jobs and then help them achieve success. Employ a buddy system or assign an informal mentor. Refresh the energy of veteran leaders by calling on them to mentor others. Give more challenging assignments when individuals are ready; keep supports going.
As experience accumulates, encourage novices to move into the role of talent scout and mentor.
The Circle Continues
If we do a good job of nurturing strong board leaders, our schools will flourish and the talent developed will spill out to benefit all the other efforts of our communities. Like the leader of the circle dance described in the opening paragraph of this article, our current and past trustees will be alert to community needs. They will be looking around to see who else might like to contribute to the community’s activities and to those people they will stretch out warm hands of friendship and encouragement. In this way they will make the circle stretch to accommodate new people and new contributions and thus they will invigorate our Jewish world with even more energy and joy. ♦
Moses and Mentoring
What does it take to be a mentee? First and foremost, the individual must feel a need for growth. It is that internalized sense which creates the other necessary conditions.
Yet, in the collective memory of our people, we recall Moses as one of our leaders par excellence. The Torah identifies him as an unparalleled prophet, and his stature as lawgiver and Rebbeinu is unequalled. How are we to resolve this dissonance?
I would suggest that Moses did not start as a great leader, but early on displayed some characteristics that, with proper guidance, could be developed into leadership qualities. Those characteristics are familiar even to casual readers of the Bible: his compassion for the unprotected, his preparedness to challenge the status quo, his curiosity and readiness to take risks, perhaps even his re-evaluation of his own identity.
On their own, these might not be automatically identified as leadership qualities. They could just as easily breed the quiet ba’al chesed, the anarchist or the recluse. Even as a composite, they are no guarantee for success, as they could yield a confused individual with a disdain for an organized social life—perhaps even the Moses herding sheep in the desert for his father-in-law, far from the civilizations of Egypt or even Midian. What made Moses a leader was not his native qualities, but a mentor who pushed him, and pushed him hard, to use those qualities, focus them, and learn new skills.
The mentorship of Moses was no simple task. He was stubborn and often saw only one side of the coin. There was an angry streak, which needed to be restrained. And, as a reluctant leader, Moses was quick to give up. He offered, even pleaded, to be relieved of duty, fired, or even killed so as not to have to continue. Yet the Mentor refused to give up on His protégé. Moses’ leadership developed and emerged, and his impact was so profound that he, G-d, and even the fringe elements of his people knew that they would be challenged to continue their path without his direction.
The role and value of mentoring in fostering leadership cannot be overstated. A survey of dozens of leadership development programs around the country reveals that almost all use mentoring extensively. A recent study conducted by The Lookstein Center of its own Principals’ Program revealed that effective mentoring was one of the most critical factors in successful leadership learning; without an effective mentor, the most motivated and talented leaders miss essential opportunities for growth. Indeed, for many of our participants, the mentoring they received was no less than transformational in their leadership.
What does it take to be a mentee? First and foremost, the individual must feel a need for growth. It is that internalized sense which creates the other necessary conditions. Those include openness to criticism, preparedness to take risks, and the resiliency necessary to cope with failure. None of these are to be taken for granted. As Rabbi Tarfon said, “I would be surprised if in this generation there was anyone capable of hearing rebuke” (T.B. Erkhin 16b). It is that very capacity to hear criticism without defensiveness, what is sometimes included in the language of being a “reflective practitioner,” which opens the doors to professional growth.
What makes an effective mentor? An effective mentor does not tell the mentee what to do. Rather, she probes decisions, challenges assumptions, forces re-evaluation, helps to generate alternatives, directs to resources, opens possibilities, confronts hidden understandings, is demanding and guides exploration. Mentors need to encourage risk-taking, help to assess what risks are worth taking, and be prepared to help the mentee learn from risks that did not turn out as anticipated. All this, of course, while being supportive of the mentee, and understanding of the mentee’s professional, psychological and emotional needs.
Mentoring is not easy work for the mentor either. It can be frustrating and demands patience. It requires what the kabbalists called tzimtzum—holding one’s tongue while the protégé insists on doing things his way, much the way a mother needs to hold back while her child insists on doing things his own way, even repeating mistakes the mother made. It requires having a long-term vision of what the mentee can achieve, and applauding the baby steps necessary to get there, not all of which are necessarily experienced as progress by the mentee.
Beyond that, mentoring requires the mentor to be self-critical, to be prepared to reflect upon his or her own successes and failures, perhaps even acknowledge them. Mentors need not only to be good leaders, but to understand what makes them good leaders. They need to be able to look at others, who may have talents far different from their own, celebrate and cultivate those talents, and be confident enough not to be threatened by someone who might be younger, more energetic, and more talented than themselves.
The need for leadership in day schools is well known. A number of significant programs, especially designed for day school leaders, have made a considerable contribution. Yet every day the school leader needs to look internally as well, asking him or herself what role s/he can play in fostering another generation of leadership. Are there teachers in my school who can be cultivated to take on greater positions of leadership? Are there individuals whom I, or someone else, can mentor, whether formally or informally, so that they can be counted on years down the line? What do I need to learn in order to become a mentor for my teachers? Am I prepared to lose my most talented classroom teachers if I am successful in “growing” their leadership? Am I prepared to share some of my leadership with them, if necessary?
Lay leaders in schools must ask themselves similar questions. Are they prepared to help develop leadership for day schools, even if it means that one of their stars may leave the school? Will they take pride in the number of leaders they have cultivated, or bemoan their loss of staff? Will they back up their staff, and the professional leadership, when they take the kinds of risks that will lead to growth?
When G-d played the role of prime Mentor to Moses there was no guarantee of success, and quite a number of setbacks. Even though it would have been easier for God to do much of the work Himself, and there would likely have been fewer mishaps in the short term, the long-term strategic planning indicated the necessity to train a new leader, even a new kind of leader, for the people. Are we prepared to pick up the gauntlet? ♦
The Board Member’s Guide to Successful Fundraising
While there are a number of excellent resources for board members who want to understand better the key role they play in fundraising, sometimes advice from those who have “been there, done that” can offer a real boost to jumpstarting your own potential. With that in mind, here’s some real-world advice from a real-world fundraiser and volunteer who knows what you’re facing and wants you to succeed in raising money for your school—and to have fun while you’re doing it!
- Fundraising is about relationships and shared visions. Most of the time when board members say they don’t like to fundraise, it’s because they don’t have a clear idea of what fundraising is. At heart, it’s an opportunity to grow relationships with people—people who then naturally want to support your cause because they share your school’s vision.
Remember that when you’re raising funds for your school, you’re not “selling” a product or asking someone to do something they don’t want to do. You are building a relationship that is based on shared values between your school’s mission and the world that the donor wants to help bring into being. That’s a very powerful proposition—and something that all board members can be proud to be a part of.
- There’s more to the fundraising process than simply asking for money. Too often, when board members hear the word “fundraising,” they fixate on the act of asking for money. There’s a lot more to fundraising than that. As an example, take a look at the following activities. Which would you be willing to do to help your school?
- Identify people who might be able and interested in making a gift to your school.
- Invite a few people you know to your home to learn more about your school’s mission, vision, and programs.
- Help out with school fundraising events.
- Talk to your friends, business associates, and others about your school and why you support it.
- Make a presentation at a local service club about the educational excellence of your school and its programs and values.
- Write a thank-you note or make a thank-you call to someone who has given a gift.
- Personally update a donor on the good his/her gift has done and why your school is stronger as a result.
If you are willing to do any of the above or any similar sorts of activities, then congratulations—you’re a volunteer fundraiser! Because you are helping nurture the relationships that will grow into donations for your school, you are an active participant in the fundraising process.
I’d challenge you to push your comfort zone. Take on more and more of these activities, and soon you’ll have the confidence to help your school when it comes to asking, too.
- If you want others to give, lead by example. As a board member, you’re a leader of your institution, and others will follow the example you set, particularly when it comes to giving. So you need to set the bar high for the board as a whole and for yourself as an individual if you want your school to have fundraising success.
In practical terms, this means:
- Every member of your board has to make a gift. No exceptions. Nothing less than 100% participation by the board in your annual fund (or in other major fundraising efforts like capital campaigns) is acceptable. If the volunteer leaders of your school won’t give, why should anyone else?
- Every board member should make a gift that is significant in comparison to his/her means. Nobody expects a school teacher on your board to make a gift that’s the same size as that of a local captain of industry. But both the school teacher and the CEO need to make gifts that are comparable in terms of the amount of financial sacrifice required. In deciding what constitutes an appropriate size for your gift as a board member, use the following guidelines:
- Is your gift one of the top three that you make annually? As a volunteer leader, your gift to your school needs to be at the top of your personal giving priorities.
- Is your gift large enough that it’s not a decision you can make yourself? If your gift is of a size that you need to talk with your spouse, significant other, or other family members because it represents a substantial philanthropic commitment for you, then it’s probably in the right range.
Another reason why every board member needs to make a significant gift: knowing that you’ve given the best gift that you can makes it a lot easier to ask others to give to your school. After all, you’re not asking anyone to do anything you haven’t already done yourself.
- Continue to educate yourself about fundraising. There are a number of marvelous resources out there for board members who want to understand better the key role they play in fundraising. In addition to information and training opportunities available through The Fund Raising School and the Center on Philanthropy’s website (www.philanthropy.iupui.edu), be sure to check out information from BoardSource (www.boardsource.org). Their publications offer sound, solid, easy-to-read advice regarding how board members can maximize their effectiveness as volunteer fundraisers.
Also, don’t limit yourself to print resources. Other resources at your doorstep include:
- The chief fundraiser at your school. Ask him/her about how you can play an active part in raising the money your school needs.
- Other board members—both at your school and in your community. Find out who has fundraising experience you can learn from. Network and share experiences so you can learn from each other.
- Your local chapter of the Association of Fundraising Professionals (you can find your local chapter at www.afpnet.org). You don’t have to be a fundraising professional to attend AFP’s informative programs on fundraising.
- The National Association of Independent Schools and the Council for Advancement and Support of Education. Check out their respective websites at www.nais.org and www.case.org to see what resources they have that may be of help.
And be sure to request your school to provide continuing education for your board on fundraising—and make this continuing education a priority. Learning by doing is good, but learning by doing when it’s supported by sound training is faster—and yields better results!
5. Above all, enjoy the process. Fundraising for your school is a chance to learn and achieve success—for yourself and your school. Work hard at your volunteer fundraising responsibilities, enjoy the relationships you build along the way, and take pride in the fact that the dollars you raise today are building a brighter and stronger tomorrow for your school. You’re making the vision you believe in manifest itself in a very real way through your school’s success—and that’s a lasting legacy both for you and for future generations. ♦
Jewish Day School Headship: Making a Demanding Job More Manageable
… there are virtually no documented instances of troubled schools being turned around without intervention by a powerful leader. Many other factors may contribute to such turnarounds, but leadership is the catalyst. (Wallace Foundation: Becoming a Leader, 2008)
More often than not, the principal’s skills determine whether a school becomes a dynamic learning organization or a failed enterprise. (Southern Regional Education Board)
With each of our schools functioning independently (as opposed to a public school system with multiple levels of operational support), and given the intensity of parent and communal investment in day schools, the demands on anyone holding this position are immense; the potential for burnout is often high. At the same time, the value to a school of a substantial tenure (at least eight to ten years) for a successful head is incalculable. Leadership transitions, when they come too frequently, can interrupt forward progress all too easily.
The day school field desperately needs more “Heads Who Inspire,” professional leaders who will serve schools with knowledge, experience, and wisdom so that schools continue to fulfill their potential. What can be done to nurture sitting heads of schools so that they feel that the position is more doable and so that more talented individuals consider careers as heads of school?
Both personally, from my twenty year tenure as a day school head, and professionally, as PEJE focuses even more sharply on the central role of the head of school, I believe we have an obligation to attend to what has been called “the care and feeding” of a head of school.
Not too many years ago, I found that expression somewhat awkward; however, the more I reflect on it, the more I feel it has a place in our vocabulary. The terminology of caring and feeding helps to concretize the nature of the support which is required. We can easily agree on the caring which focuses on the professional growth of the head, such as well-conducted annual performance reviews. What is less clear are the implications of the word “feeding.” This term implies a deeper level of nurturing.
Heads Need to Care for Themselves
As with most challenges, change starts from within. It is easy to overlook the role that heads can play in sustaining themselves. There are a number of strategies which are often mentioned in the literature about senior executives embracing habits of personal care. While they may seem obvious, the list bears repeating: proper diet; regular exercise; reasonable amounts of sleep; and firm parameters on hours worked per week, as well as number of night meetings.
Less frequently mentioned is the need to embrace some areas of interest which are not directly related to the work of the headship (e.g., music, gardening, pleasure reading, etc.). Through many of my years as a head, and even with the busy travel schedule I maintain at PEJE, I have tried to keep up participation in a community chorus. Choral singing is one of my own sources of inspiration, and making time to recharge my batteries through singing makes me a better leader in many ways. Heads need to discover (if they have not yet) their private joys and allocate time to feed and replenish their souls.
Related to cultivating personal interests, I would recommend a specific activity that can also help heads care for themselves: the power of writing. Writing, at least for me, is a means to clarify thinking and serves as a restorative endeavor, especially in the face of so many external demands. Whether through personal journal-keeping, periodic reflections shared with a wider audience, or even scholarly essays, writing can indeed be seen as a tool for personal and professional development.
While self-motivated efforts are essential (and usually cost-effective!), the value of seeking out and working regularly with a professional coach cannot be overestimated. At PEJE, we have witnessed the power of this kind of support over and over again. The most talented athletes, for example, would not dream of advancing in their sports without a proper coach, and heads of school should see themselves similarly.
Finally, there are seminars and workshops—often highly impactful—which can provide much needed expertise to help sustain and grow one’s leadership capacities. Each head needs to make sure that funds for such professional development are built into the annual budget and then formally approved by the board. In addition to making sure the head has sufficient funds allocated for professional development, the board has other roles to play.
Boards Need to Care for Their Heads
Each board and each board member must support, nurture, and care for their head in a number of ways. Yes, to be sure, the board has the formal responsibility of evaluating the head, and this includes sensitive decisions related to contracts. However, the larger role, on an ongoing basis, is for the board to provide much needed support to the head, to ensure the head’s continued success for the good of the school.
Based on decades experience with heads and boards, the National Association of Independent Schools (NAIS) has articulated unequivocally what the board must do as a whole, and how each individual trustee is expected to behave with respect to the head. According to NAIS, the fifth principle of good practice for boards is “The board selects, supports, nurtures, evaluates, and sets appropriate compensation for the head of school.” The ninth principle for each individual trustee is “A trustee has the responsibility to support the school and its head and to demonstrate that support within the community.”
These principles did not emerge from thin air; they have been developed based on an incalculable number of incidents and cases where this vital support was either clearly present or painfully absent. The imperative to support a head becomes all the more strategic when boards include significant numbers of parents of current students. These board members need to be constantly reminded by the board chair and by the committee on trustees (or committee on governance) to leave their individual parent perspective at the door before entering a board meeting. Each and every board member needs to demonstrate the nurturing support of the head at all times. This means backing the head on all operational decisions (including the hiring and firing of all staff and all admission decisions). The board can certainly offer its wisdom and perspective for the head to consider, but the board must restrain itself from public disagreement with the head’s operational decisions. Board member parents with a particular concern to discuss with the head should do so privately, with the board hat removed.
The annual review of the head’s performance is the formal and confidential process and setting where the head and the members of the review committee can collaboratively examine performance and assure themselves and the board that the head is performing effectively (and if not, that processes are put into motion to coach the head toward more effective performance or to help effect a smooth and dignified transition to new leadership). Boards need to be committed to the head’s success, with performance reviews that leave everyone feeling good about the process and about its value to the head and to the success of the entire school.
The head’s job is a demanding one. The board chair, as the top supporter of the head, must be on the lookout for signs of stress and isolation. He or she must be ready to be proactive in helping to alleviate the situation. This kind of “feeding” can take the form of the gift of a meal, or tickets to a special event or performance, or use of a vacation home, or enforced time off and away in order to recalibrate and to achieve a re-centering and recovery. Within a well-functioning partnership of board chair and head, it is likely that these kind of opportunities for additional nurturing and support will surface. The opportunities need to be seized, and in a timely fashion.
Through our work at PEJE, we have become increasingly sensitized to the critical influence played by professional leadership and effective governance. The head and board (and its chair in particular) are the core team that determines how effective and compelling a Jewish day school can be. Working together to provide vital support for the head is one of the best ways these two critical parties fulfill their potential and make our day schools strong and successful operations. ♦
Books / Textbooks
Bean, S.M. and Karnes, F.A. Leadership for Students: A Practical Guide for Ages 8 – 18, 2nd Edition.
Boccia, J. A., ed. Students Taking the Lead: The Challenges and Rewards of Empowering Youth in Schools.
Bronznick, Shifra, Goldenhar, Didi, and Linsky, Marty. Leveling the Playing Field: Advancing Women in Jewish Organizational Life.
Brown, Erica. Inspired Jewish Leadership.
Charney, Ruth Sidney. Teaching Children to Care.
Delisle, D., & Delisle, J. Growing Good Kids: 28 Activities to Enhance Self-Awareness, Compassion, and Leadership.
Ellis, J., Small-McGinley, J., & DeFabrizio, L. Caring for Kids in Communities: Using Mentorship, Peer Support, and Student Leadership Programs in Schools.
Hannum, Kelly M. and Hoole, Emily. Tracking Your Development.
Hoerr, Thomas R. School Leadership for the Future: Leading the Independent School.
Hughes, Sandra R., Lakey, Berit M., and Bobowick, Marla J. The Board Building Cycle: Nine Steps to Finding, Recruiting, and Engaging Nonprofit Board Members.
Kotter, John P. Leading Change.
Lewis, Hal M. From Sanctuary to Boardroom: The Jewish Approach to Leadership.
Lombardo, Michael and Eichinger, Robert. The Leadership Machine. Minneapolis: Lominger, 2000.
—. Eighty-eight Assignments for Development in Place. Greensboro, NC: CCL P, 1989.
MacGregor, M. G. Leadership 101: Developing Leadership Skills for Resilient Youth (Facilitator’s Guide).
MacGregor, M. G. Designing Student Leadership Programs: Transforming the Leadership Potential of Youth.
Marx, J. How to Win a High School Election.
McGuire, John B. and Rhodes, Gary B. Transforming Your Leadership Culture.
van Linden, J. A., Fertman, C. I., & Long, J. A. Youth Leadership: A Guide to Understanding Leadership Development in Adolescents.
Wagner, Tony. The Global Achievement Gap.
Zachary, Lois J. The Mentor’s Guide.
Zenger, John H. and Folkman, Joseph. The Extraordinary Leadership: Turning Good Managers into Great Leaders.
Articles / Studies
Cohen, Steven M., J. Shawn Landres, Elie Kaunfer, and Michelle Shain. Emergent Jewish Communities and their Participants: Preliminary Findings from the 2007 National Spiritual Communities Study.
The Innovation Ecosystem: Emergence of a New Jewish Landscape. LA and NY: Jumpstart, The Natan Fund, and The Samuel Bronfman Foundation, 2009.
Kaunfer, Elie. “Attracting Young People to Jewish Life: Lessons Learned from Kehilat Hadar.” Jewish Education News (Spring 2005): 1-2.
Landres, J. Shawn. “The Emerging Spiritual Paradigm.” Sh’ma 37/638: 11‐12.
Project Adventure. Youth Leadership in Action: A Guide to Cooperative Games and Group Activities.
Wheatley, M. “Good-bye, Command and Control.” The Jossey-Bass Reader on Educational Leadership (Vol. 1, 339-347).
Congressional Youth Leadership Council: www.cylc.org.
Do Something: www.dosomething.org.
Free The Children: www.freethechildren.org.
Hugh O’Brian Youth Leadership: www.hoby.org.
Leadership Village: www.leadershipvillage.com.
National Council on Youth Leadership: www.lzrnews.com/articles/22&1.
National Youth Leadership Council: www.nylc.org.
National Youth Leadership Forum: www.nylf.org.
National Youth Leadership Network: www.nyln.org.
The Points of Light Youth Leadership Institute: www.pyli.org.
Youth Leadership Institute: www.yli.org.
The Youth Leadership Support Network: www.worldyouth.org.
Agile and Adaptive Leadership
The task of Jewish educators is to unleash the leadership talent of all members of the tribe.
The message is clear: as Jews, we assume that any member of the tribe is capable of leadership. From our perspective, the fact is that at certain times and in certain contexts, all members of the tribe are leaders. The task of Jewish educators is to unleash the leadership talent of all members of the tribe. Thomas Friedman has noted that our world has become increasingly flat and interdependent. As a result, hierarchical models of leadership in which there are clearly identified “leaders” and “followers” are being supplemented with models that emphasize collaboration and shared responsibility. In light of this shift, the Center for Creative Leadership (CCL) argues that leadership is a process by which people with shared work create direction (vision, goals), alignment (communication, coordination, collaboration), and commitment (pursuit of collection vs. individual goals).
Hillel taught, “Do not withdraw from the community…do not judge your fellow human being until you stand in his situation.” Judaism has always been rooted in vibrant community life. It is not coincidental that our rabbis require a minyan for prayer. One person may be the shaliach tzibbur, but each of the other nine must be present in order for key tefillot to be recited. Shared responsibility thus leads to robust community culture.
Models of positive Jewish leadership abound in the daily rhythm of Jewish day schools. Day schools possess a unique advantage in teaching leadership. Learning about and engaging in leadership involves a creative tension between dependence, independence and interdependence. Our students spend a majority of each day in school in a student chevra that does not include their parents. Separation from parents allows schools to teach children to develop as independent thinkers and problem solvers. School life also promotes interdependent connections between students, teachers, administrators, lay volunteers and at times, parents.
Jewish history is riddled with poignant stories of heroic leadership: Moshe Rabbeinu guiding Bnei Yisrael out of Egypt; Ben-Gurion heading a fledging Jewish state; and Elie Wiesel inspiring an entire generation to speak out for the rights of Soviet Jewry. We experience smaller, but no less meaningful, examples of leadership in the daily routines of school life. Today, we watched a three year old pre-school student shake off his sister’s hand as he walked through the school’s front door and confidently find his own way to class. Last week, the eighth grade class challenged our faculty to a volleyball match in order to raise funds for their Israel trip. The P.E. teacher organized the staff line-up while students planned and executed their own strategy for the five game series. One student became frustrated and stomped off to the bleachers. Alerted to her discontent, her teammates cajoled her back into the game.
In school, students are exposed to imperfect Jewish leadership, accompanied by examples from Biblical times to modern Israeli politics. Paradoxically, understanding that leaders have limitations allows children to see leaders as accessible and the journey of leadership as being student-like as it involves lifelong learning. With today’s emphasis on both left-brain (analytical) and right brain (creative) components, effective leadership involves agility across diverse domains of behavior. While we have acquired a great deal of anecdotal knowledge about nurturing Jewish leadership, the only thing that we know for certain is that everything we thought we knew is constantly in transition. As educators and lay leaders, we are charged with the responsibility of nurturing tomorrow’s leadership and preparing our students for a future we cannot even visualize. Ask your faculty to sit with you and watch the latest version of the YouTube “Did You Know?” It is a sobering reminder that we must prepare students for jobs that do not yet exist, using expertise that will soon be outdated to solve problems for which technology is not yet invented. While sobering, it is also quite motivating to the educator who has an eye toward innovative education and outcomes beyond grades and test scores.
So how does the Jewish educator develop the next generation of leaders who will improve the human condition? From numerous studies of the key events in a leader’s development, we know that
- About 45% of development is associated with challenging assignments (e.g., first time supervisory jobs, start-from-scratch assignments, fix-it jobs, tough negotiations, moves between line and administrative jobs, increases in scope of responsibility, career shifts, etc.).
- About 25% of development is a function of good (and it turns out, poor) relationships with other people (e.g., role models, mentors, coaches).
- About 25% is attributed to experiencing hardships (e.g., business failures and mistakes, demotions or missed promotions, subordinate performance problems, downsizing experiences, significant conflicts at work, discrimination).
- And about 5% was due to coursework (e.g., workshops, conferences).
- For some leaders, personal life events, positive and negative, were also found to have an effect on development.
The implications are clear: developing successful students, teachers and administrators will require much more than lecturing students in classrooms or sending educators to interesting workshops and conferences. We must think more creatively about how to nurture the development of Jewish leaders through on-the-job experiences, experiential exercises and through interactions with others. Development requires providing people opportunities to learn from their work rather than simply taking them away from their work to learn.
CCL has studied the characteristics of successful and unsuccessful leaders. Taken together, these studies have found successful leaders establish strong relationships with others; hire, build, and successfully lead teams; have outstanding track records of individual performance; and can adapt during periods of change and transition. CCL has also conducted numerous studies of leaders who were on track (or the fast track) for a successful career and then “derailed” (e.g., were fired, demoted, or reached a career plateau). Those who derailed were more likely than those who did not to have problems with interpersonal relationships, fail to hire, build, and lead a team, fail to meet business objectives, were unable or unwilling to change or adapt, and lacked a broad functional orientation. The two most important derailment factors, interpersonal relationships and teamwork, have little to do with the leaders’ technical skills. When leaders derail, it’s rare that the cause is because they cannot handle the technical or substantive dimensions of the job.
Our students will require Tony Wagner’s survival skills (The Global Achievement Gap) in order to effect change. In particular, fresh challenges necessitate a high level of success at #4: agility and adaptability. CCL President John Ryan mentions learning agility as well in a recent article in Business Week. Referring to Michael Lombardo and Robert Eichinger’s book The Leadership Machine, he flags three crucial elements of learning agility: a “rock-solid commitment” to learning, the courage to put oneself in challenging situations and a commitment to seeking and accepting performance feedback.
In order to lead the next generation, our students will understand that technology is a tool, not a toy. The Internet permits this generation to easily access information that formerly involved a trip to the library reference room, hauling piles of heavy books from the narrow stacks, or peering through microfiche documents to read primary sources. The challenge of access has been replaced by the challenge of analysis—teaching about legitimate sources, truth in journalism, bias and opinion.
Most Jewish day schools’ mission statements, like ours, include the words “future Jewish leaders.” Unfortunately, creating a formula to turn out graduates who are leaders is not simple. Discussions with our faculty indicate that defining good leadership is not easy. We know it when we see it, but the criteria are elusive. We do recognize, however, that leaders must have competency in areas that are not necessarily academic. They require excellent social skills, self-awareness and personal restraint. Daniel Goleman calls this “emotional intelligence,” noting that one must be able to lead oneself in order to lead others. Are we able nurture leadership qualities in every child? To do so, we need to start with the premise that leaders are made, not just born; that the ability to lead is not ingrained, but must be nurtured.
As our ancestors said, Tzei ulmad, go and learn. Let’s start with V’ahavta lerei’acha kamocha, Love your friend as yourself. Jewish day schools are a step ahead in leadership training in that we already emphasize strong values and morality. We teach tolerance and then respect of classmates who see/understand/learn differently. Shammai taught, “Say little, do much.” Talking about these concepts is important, but modeling effective communication through our own behavior speaks volumes. We begin with good listening, which is another one of Tony Wagner’s seven survival skills. An effective way to incorporate these skills is to start each day (post-tefillah, if you have it) with aseifat boker, a morning meeting. Ruth Sidney Charney’s work (Teaching Children to Care) describes several ways to run a productive morning meeting. Even the youngest pre-school students are able to learn the skill of greeting one another by name, shaking hands, looking at the student next to him/her in the eye.
What are some other ways to nurture leadership in your school?
- Build leadership into the totality of your school’s culture. Map it as part of the school social curriculum. This will transform your program from “good to great!”
- Emphasize strong character and positive values through use of Ruth Sidney Charney’s Responsive Classroom approach, beginning in pre-school.
- Integrate “habits of mind” (Costa and Kallik) into your curriculum.
- Develop an “independence strand.” Incorporate into your curriculum matrix leadership skills students need at each level in order to progress to the next one.
- Don’t forget to contemplate the ways our students learn and communicate today. Utilize Facebook, blogging, Skype and podcasts to focus on digital interconnectivity. Today’s students will need leadership skills for a global world.
In a conversation about leadership lessons with historian Doris Kearns Goodwin in Harvard Business Review (April 2009), Diane Couto reports that Abraham Lincoln “took responsibility for what he did, and he shared responsibility for the mistakes of others, and so people became very loyal to him.” Our hope is that those of us who are passionate about Jewish day school education work together to refine a compelling vision for teaching the Jewish leaders of the next generation. ♦
Head Support & Evaluation Committee: A Win-Win-Win Strategy
Individuals who inspire high levels of comfort and confidence tend to be committed, passionate supporters of both the school and the head. With the right composition, the committee’s process will be marked by openness, free-flowing discussion, diverse points of view, and risk-taking.
The first step in setting up a Head Support and Evaluation Committee is selecting its members. It’s by far the most important step, and it’s very easy to get wrong.
The right way to staff the committee is with members with whom both the board and the head of school are completely comfortable and in whom they have complete confidence. As with all professional development, unless the supervisee trusts the process and feels completely safe, progress will be halting and limited, at best. Individuals who inspire high levels of comfort and confidence tend to be committed, passionate supporters of both the school and the head. With the right composition, the committee’s process will be marked by openness, free-flowing discussion, diverse points of view, and risk-taking.
Getting the right people onto the committee is easier said than done. At the Solomon Schechter School of Manhattan, we went without a head support and evaluation committee for five years because we couldn’t identify the right participants. During that time, the board president and the Executive Committee served as placeholders, with the president taking on the support role and the Executive Committee the evaluation of the head, in addition to their usual functions. Two years ago, the board and the head finally identified three people, two board members and one member from outside the school community, a former head of school, who satisfy all the criteria. The resulting committee has been so effective that everyone concerned is convinced that it was the correct call not to create a committee earlier, until it could be constituted with the right members.
...it inoculates itself, and the school, from the upheaval of unnecessary leadership transitions.
The most popular alternatives to this approach to staffing the committee are (a) appointing senior board leaders whom the head of school respects and whose leadership contributions s/he acknowledges, or (b) selecting committee members as one would an arbitration panel: the board chair chooses one member, the head another, and the two members choose a third. While both selection strategies seem plausible, they tend to undermine the committee’s work even before it starts, because not every member inspires the complete comfort and confidence of both board and head. Even one committee member whom not everyone completely trusts will engender caution, guardedness, and defensiveness.
Once the committee has been constituted, defining its work comes next. At the outset, it is important to determine whether the overall approach will be capacity building or correcting deficiencies. Typically, unless there are very serious questions about the head’s suitability, the capacity-building model will be selected. The underlying assumption of this model is that the head is performing competently, and the committee’s role is to help him or her become even more effective. The alternative to this, the deficiency model, would be chosen only if the board wants to give the head a final opportunity to overcome one or more shortcomings, and unless the head succeeds in this one chance, the school will be seeking a replacement.
To build the head’s capacity, the committee and the head need to agree annually on four to six areas of growth for the head that are critical to the school in the coming year. Most of these goals will be selected from among the school’s strategic priorities. If there is a strategic plan in place, they will tend to coincide with the most important, or the most challenging, of the strategic tasks for which the head is responsible that year. In addition, one or two goals may be areas for professional growth that could greatly enhance the head’s overall effectiveness. The goals need to be selected carefully, as most of the committee’s work will be shaped by them.
Once the goals are identified, the committee and the head collaboratively envision what progress toward each will look like and identify how the head and the committee will know if the desired progress has been achieved. In most cases, this will entail some data gathering that the head or committee members will undertake and will share with the committee at subsequent meetings during the year. Because the data gathering is dictated by the very specific and carefully formulated goals, this model has no place for a general survey of the head’s overall strengths and weaknesses, whether addressed to the faculty, the parents, or the board.
At each stage of the process, the committee both supports and challenges the head. When the committee is supporting the head, it (a) provides a trusted sounding board for the head to share the challenges s/he faces in progressing toward identified goals, (b) helps the head think through the challenges, come to new understandings, identify promising strategies or refine existing ones, and sometimes redefine a goal or an indicator of progress in mid-course, (c) listens to the head actively and empathically, (d) contextualizes areas for improvement within the head’s overall effectiveness, (e) reminds the head that an awareness of shortcomings and commitment to working on them is itself a sign of strength, and (f) celebrates successes. In addition, at times the committee (g) invites the head to identify problems outside of the annual goals, issues that trouble the head enough to keep him or her awake at night, and offers perspectives or suggests resources to help address them, (h) troubleshoots and brainstorms ways for the head to maintain as healthy a life balance as possible, and (i) serves as an advocate for the head with other constituencies.
The head gains a group of supportive advocates who serve as a sounding board to help him or her think and reflect about job performance and develop as a professional.
The committee fulfills its responsibility to challenge the head by (a) scheduling meetings and setting agendas in ways that maintain momentum, (b) encouraging the head to set high standards and take appropriate risks, (c) helping the head refine the goals and indicators so that they directly address the school’s strategic priorities or the head’s personal challenges, (d) holding the head accountable to progress towards, or meet, the agreed-upon goals and indicators, and (e) promoting the head’s self-awareness through feedback and “holding up a mirror.”
The potential of the committee is best realized when it is deeply committed to both of its responsibilities, support as well as challenge.
While there are no hard-and-fast rules as to how frequently the committee must meet with the head, it is hard to maintain momentum with less than four meetings per year.
Over the summer, the committee meets with the head to set goals and select indicators. The outcome of this meeting is a written list of annual performance goals. At Schechter Manhattan, this process often takes two meetings, giving the head and committee members ample time to think through the complex issues that arise before coming to closure.
During the year, the committee meets a couple of times to check in with the head, monitor progress toward goals, including looking at interim data, offer support, and identify any mid-course corrections that may be necessary.
In May or June, the committee reviews the data and completes its evaluation.
The work of the committee comes before the board twice a year: in September, to present the head’s annual goals, and in June, to review the head’s goals and the outcomes of the evaluation. In addition, the committee may be charged with the task of negotiating all provisions of the head’s contract renewal with the exception of remuneration (which is typically handled by the president and/or the treasurer), and the outcome of this discussion would be reported to the board when the contract is up for renewal.
And the Winners Are….
The head of school, the board, and the school are all transformed for the better by the work of head support and evaluation.
The head gains a group of supportive advocates who serve as a sounding board to help him or her think and reflect about job performance and develop as a professional. This is a rare gift, as heads of school often feel isolated from a professional learning community for themselves (though they sometimes function as members of professional learning communities for others, namely their supervisees) and severely limited in resources to which, or to whom, they can turn for support, guidance, and direction.
The head also benefits from clarity of job responsibilities and work priorities. Without a discrete list of annual performance goals, each of the myriad responsibilities of school administration looms large, and every new issue that arises competes for the head’s attention, focus, and best thinking. Finally, the head benefits from the security of having a well defined process of supervision and evaluation and a predictable means of assessing his or her own prospects of re-employment.
The board also benefits from the work of the head support and evaluation committee. It fulfills the board’s often neglected (or perfunctorily discharged) responsibility of supervising its sole employee, and does so in a way that systematically promotes his or her professional growth. In addition, it strengthens the board’s focus on strategic issues and priorities and deflects board members’ attention from operational distractions. Moreover, it inoculates itself, and the school, from the upheaval of unnecessary leadership transitions.
The school is a winner, too. The interactions between the committee members and the head of school model collaborative inquiry and constructive criticism that carry over to many other relationships and situations. Furthermore, as the head of school changes and grows, his or her vision, purposes, and learning ripple outward, intensify and deepen the culture of teacher and student learning, and influence the assumptions, attitudes, and habits of teachers, students, and parents alike. As the head develops new skills and practices that promote improved student learning and welfare, the gap between good intentions and effective action narrows, with positive outcomes for the entire school community.
A well constructed head support and evaluation committee marshals its members’ thoughtful analysis, high regard, and inspired action and channels them in the service of a school’s highest moral purposes. Designed to enhance the capacity of the head, the board, and the school as a whole, it’s a classic win-win-win strategy for all concerned. ♦
Of course, sharing your perspective means sometimes telling me things that are not easy to hear. Still, it’s better to be hearing from you as someone who is invested in the success of the school and in my role in helping to guide the school in directions that will assure its growth.
Ray: As I’ve thought about this written dialogue, I found myself preparing in the same way that I’ve come to do when we speak on the phone or in person. I’ve developed a list of topics that I’d like to cover, areas in which I’d benefit from your perspective. Perspective seems to be a key benefit of our interactions. Over the four years that we’ve worked together, I’ve come to value the expertise that you bring, utilizing your background in organizational psychology and family therapy to bring fresh eyes to the day-to-day operations of the school. You’ve worked with other Jewish day schools but also know the independent school world. And while you listen to my read of issues, you also know—and speak with—the other players on our leadership team, so you’re informed by their perspectives as well as mine.
Dave: You have underscored the prime value of a coach which is perspective. Not that my perspective is better than yours, but the fact that it is different than yours is important. Reality for each of us is formed by our perspective or point of view. A coach can bring an opportunity for the head of school to look at situations from different points of view. This helps in developing strategies based on a wider understanding. To be effective in coaching a head of school, it is essential to have access to the administrative team and the board. The dynamics of those relationships with the head have a great impact on his or her work.
Ray: I must admit that even now, having a coach can feel like a bit of a luxury. A head’s job doesn’t usually include time to frame issues and share them with someone whose role is to listen and advise. I say this even as I know the importance of reflective practice. Working with you has encouraged me to be more reflective. Working with a coach was one of requirements of the PEJE Grant and was one of the reasons I was interested in the grant. Still, it took me awhile to set the time aside for the regular appointments. You waited patiently—learning about me and the school—and I began to generate those lists of topics to cover. You have reminded me that what initially seems urgent may not be and what rises to the top of the list changes with the benefit of time elapsed. Still, knowing that we’ll have the opportunity to talk can focus me on placing a particular event in a larger context and allowing me to begin the reflective process.
Dave: Beyond competence, leadership requires vision. Staying ahead of the game and not getting trapped in the day to day minutia. A pitfall for heads is becoming isolated by the great demands of the position. Isolation always brings distortion. By developing the discipline to have time to reflect and share, one can avoid this pitfall. Sharing my opinion, after careful listening and questioning, is more helpful than giving advice. Yes, patience is an important attribute for a coach.
A coach can bring an opportunity for the head of school to look at situations from different points of view. This helps in developing strategies based on a wider understanding.
Ray: Our focus has been on shaping the school’s professional leadership for a growing school. We’ve worked on developing and articulating organizational models while also looking at the patterns of interaction among players on the team. You’ve sat in on goal-setting meetings with lead administrators and me. In the process, you’ve asked me to consider how I define and do my job. Even when you’re not here, your counsel rings in my ears. I often replay the tape of such questions as “What would happen if you saw something that needed to be done and you walked by?” which is related to the query, “Are you pushing responsibility down?”
Dave: One of the things that we have often discussed is how you encourage initiative from your administrators. Pushing responsibility down without giving authority kills initiative. While we are all risk-aversive, being reminded that trust is only built by risking can help us to take a chance and build trust and enhance productivity.
Ray: Of course, sharing your perspective means sometimes telling me things that are not easy to hear. Even when you’ve said you’re going to be forceful, it’s seemed gentle. Still, it’s better to be hearing from you as someone who is invested in the success of the school and in my role in helping to guide the school in directions that will assure its growth. Ultimately, the coaching relationship also provides the support of adding tools to my to toolbox, pointing me to new resources as well as offering counsel. Wherever our conversations have taken us, your skill as a coach has always allowed me to see the cup as more than half full. Which brings us back to the value of perspective—placing a challenge in a larger context within the life of my particular school and the larger Jewish day school and independent school worlds.
Dave: When I’ve had a critical opinion, I of course worry, “How is he going to take this?” Then I remind myself that if I’m not honest with you there is no reason for you to trust me. Your reaction to the few difficult conversations we have had has always been non-defensive and thoughtful. As for gentle, I see it as being careful. What I mean by that is being full of care. The trust and friendship we have built together over the years is precious to me. Also, I must say to you that I have learned so much from you. Excellence in Jewish education matters to us both and is at the core of the work and relationship that we have built together. The essence of all the conversations we have had is that they have ultimately been for the children and families. ♦
Nurturing Leadership in Middle and High School Students
Why Develop Leaders?
The process of becoming a leader holds many valuable lessons in life. Interpersonal skills are necessary in every aspect of human endeavor—at home, school, work, and in the social arena. As one’s leadership potential is nurtured, the ability to relate to others improves and skills in communication, conflict resolution, decision making, and goal achievement are refined. Initiative and responsibility increase, and self-concept and personal fulfillment flourish. Basic human needs of belonging, accomplishment, and reaching one’s potential can be realized through the development of leadership. Leadership skills can make the difference between talents being fully utilized or unfulfilled.
Leaders for the 21st century must be able to face complex challenges in an ever-changing world. There are fundamental changes in the economy, jobs, and businesses. According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills (2008), the industrial economy based on manufacturing has shifted to a service economy driven by information, knowledge and innovation. The Framework for 21st Century Learning (www.21stcenturyskills.org) organizes learning around student outcomes in Core Subjects, 21st Century Themes, which are Learning and Innovation Skills, Information, Media, and Technology Skills, and Life and Career Skills. Leadership skills are integrated throughout this framework.
In his book A Whole New Mind: Why Right-Brainers Will Rule the Future, Daniel Pink says the leaders of the 21st century will be creators, empathizers, pattern recognizers and meaning makers. Leaders of the 21st century must also be able to embrace new forms of communication required by emerging technologies. From podcasts, twitter, and online communities to webcams and wikis, it will be necessary not only for leaders to communicate effectively with the people in the same building, city, and state; leaders of the future must also be able to communicate effectively and maintain relationships with online colleagues from across the globe.
The personal rewards for developing one’s leadership potential are many, but the societal benefits of effective leaders may be even more significant. The call for more effective leaders must not be ignored. Perhaps at no other time in history has there been a greater challenge for positive human interaction and ethical leadership. These goals are critical to the progress of humankind.
Trends in Leadership
An analysis of emerging trends in leadership prompts educators to recognize the link between leadership and emotional intelligence. Key leadership skills and perspectives are related to one’s intrapersonal skills (self knowledge and understanding) and one’s interpersonal skills (skills in building and maintaining relationships with others).
In 2007, researchers at the Center for Creative Leadership asked 247 senior executives around the globe about ten leadership trends. From this study, important patterns emerged focusing on talent, innovation, collaboration, and globalization. For instance, many organizations are bridging cultural, geographical, and functional boundaries, which require skills different from face-to-face leadership. The art of virtual leadership will require people who have exceptional written, oral, and technological communication skills. Today’s leaders also predict that the shift from autocratic to participative leadership will call for leaders who have the ability to collaborate and focus on the team rather than the individual. This new complex, global environment will increase the rise of multifaceted challenges calling for leaders who are creative thinkers able to adapt, navigate change, maintain focus, and above all else, build and maintain relationships in person and online.
The goal of developing young leaders is of such critical importance to the individual and to society that it should be made an integral part of school. While it is also the responsibility of parents, communities and religious affiliations to develop leaders, the school environment is an ideal laboratory for creating young leaders in purposeful and intentional ways.
The following practical strategies are offered for incorporating leadership development in middle and high school settings:
Strategies for Teaching the Concept of Leadership
- Broaden students’ concept of leadership by helping them understand that authentic leadership has more to do with influence than who holds an appointed position, or who is popular, or who has the best grades, or who has the most money. Examine leadership from a psychological-sociological perspective. Help students see that leadership begins early, perhaps during the negotiation of playground equipment or during team work at school or chores at home. An expanded view recognizes that leadership permeates all dimensions of life, across all disciplines, ages, cultures, and socioeconomic levels of society.
- Collect and analyze all the leadership resources you can for your school. In this journal’s Bookcase section there are numerous commercially-prepared materials, websites and other resources for educators to use in schools.
- Explore the concept of leadership it as it relates to other themes of study in your school. For example, how is leadership connected to such timeless concepts of power, patterns, symbols, culture, change, ethics, etc. Study leadership in characters in literature or great leaders across fields of study. Study great leaders! How is a political leader similar to or different from a great leader in mathematics? How is a governmental leader similar to or different from a leader in visual and performing arts? What makes an unethical leader? Why do leaders fail?
- Study the history of leadership. How has leadership changed over time? From tribal leadership and “survival of the fittest” to the era of courts, kings, and queens, to today, how have people’s expectations of leadership changed? How are leadership styles in the United States of America similar to or different from leadership styles in other countries?
Strategies for Teaching the Art of Leadership
- Developing self understanding, intrapersonal skills, knowledge of one’s strengths and weaknesses can facilitate leadership growth every day. Learning style and personality inventories as well as informal psychological type or emotional intelligence assessments can be useful in helping students understand who they are and why they may react to certain people, places, and events in the way they do. Two great websites for this are www.humanmetrics.com and www.personalitypage.com. Intrapersonal skills and self-reflection can be further enhanced in the classroom by such activities as journaling and bibliotherapy.
- Today’s students need more opportunities to engage in meaningful activities with teams or groups. This allows teachers, and ultimately the students themselves, to determine how well one works with others. For example, if a student is too domineering, a know-it-all, a perfectionist, or too passive, self conscious, or a procrastinator, the student needs to learn to recognize this in himself/herself and understand how counter-productive these types of behaviors can be, particularly to others, and to the task of the group.
- Related to the art of working with others, students need the opportunity to see events from the perspective of another in order to be able to best understand and relate to others. Some children have a very difficult time with this skill, and they need plenty of chances to practice it! When conflicts arise in school, seize the opportunity to allow students to work through the problems themselves, rather than settling it right away for them. Also, when conflicts occur, it is a good idea to do some group reflection on the situation, looking back at how things might have been handled differently or what contributed to the situation getting resolved. This approach can help students see that there are different ways of working with people, and some are more successful than others.
- Many students have been trained to look for the “one right answer” when much of what is needed today is the skill of divergent thinking or looking for many possibilities. Find ways to incorporate meaningful creative thinking activities into the curriculum. Building this skill can also help keep students interested in producing new knowledge and finding new ways of doing things, rather than just learning what has been done and accepting the way things are as the way they must always be. Creative thinking can also help students in seeing the big picture of life, a vital talent for effective leaders.
- Find opportunities for students to demonstrate responsibility. You may have heard the saying, Success breeds success. This certainly applies when developing leaders. Find ways for students to show you that they can be successful at something, follow through with tasks, that they can achieve, and that they can be productive. This is the key to motivation!
- Older students may be challenged by developing plans of leadership, focusing on making a positive change in an area of the school, community, or religious affiliation. Identifying issues and problems, setting goals and objectives, planning a strategy for addressing these problems, and most importantly, following through with solving problems can be very productive way of experiencing leadership.
- Real life experiences such as mentorships and internships allow students to collaborate with adult leaders, and this can be a positive experience for both students and adult leaders. This is a good example of intergenerational collaboration as well.
- Build courage in students by encouraging them to try new things. Some students are so afraid of failure that they are paralyzed by perfectionism. Help them learn that failure can be a good thing when one learns from it!
- Encourage self-discipline in every aspect of school by teaching students about commitments…doing what you said you would do, when you said you would do it, whether you want to or not! This is a very important seed of growth for emerging leaders.
- Help students understand that every effective leader is able to listen and to follow when necessary. This may be challenging for some but it is a critical component of leadership development.
- Promote goal setting and a sense of autonomy. All too often we coddle students and rob them of the opportunity to be independent learners. Give them the chance to try.
- Expose students to leadership opportunities outside of school such as youth leadership conferences, seminars, and weekend and summer programs offered through college and universities and other community organizations.
The most important goal is to create interest in the concept of leadership and help students to become more active and reflective in their individual pursuits of leadership potential. This goal requires support and commitment from all educators. Intentional and creative approaches to leadership development must be pursued vigorously by those interested in the challenge. ♦
*Parts of this article will appear in Leadership for Students: A Practical Guide for Ages 8 – 18, 2nd Edition, by F.A. Karnes and S.M. Bean (forthcoming), Waco, TX: Prufrock Press.
Pushing Students Beyond Their Comfort Zones
Our new engagement methodologies are based upon peer-to-peer relationships; we help identify student social networks as a means to engage their peers and help them connect to the Jewish community. In record numbers, Jewish university students are actualizing this role in a very real way—for example, taking hammers and power tools in their hands to help rebuild the Gulf Coast. This is not a comfortable experience. It is growth through discomfort as students push themselves to the limit and labor to better the world around them. Elsewhere, students are taking part in building themselves and their communities through active, experiential learning. They are discussing, debating, arguing, and agonizing over our ancient texts in an effort to answer very modern and often personal questions. We must challenge them to challenge themselves, to embrace the uncomfortable and to engage the world in active dialogue. ♦
Cultivating Knowledge Capital for Jewish Innovation
Significant numbers of the individuals involved in new Jewish spiritual communities, what we call independent minyanim and Jewish emergents, come from a day-school background. The 2007 National Spiritual Communities survey states that “day school alumni amount to 15% of all synagogue members in the United States (and most of them are Orthodox); but they amount to 19% of the participants (largely non‐Orthodox) in the rabbi‐led emergent communities, and an astounding 40% in the independent minyanim.” Those numbers are clear evidence of the growth of social capital due to investment in Jewish education. More precisely, they indicate that the contemporary Jewish educational system is creating enormous reserves of knowledge capital, which Wikipedia defines as “a concept which asserts that ideas have intrinsic value which can be shared and leveraged within and between organizations. Knowledge capital connotes that sharing skills and information is a means of sharing power.”
As we and our colleagues at The Natan Fund and The Samuel Bronfman Foundation recently have observed, “sometimes the most important, far-reaching effects of a project cannot be anticipated at its outset.” Considering the creativity readily apparent in the wave of new Jewish initiatives launched over the past decade or so, it is clear Jewishly educated leaders are leveraging their knowledge capital in new and unexpected ways. According to the 2008 Survey of New Jewish Organizations, more than three quarters of these Jewish startups are focused on creating new expressions for meaningful Jewish identity, whether through religion, education, arts and culture, or social advocacy. Moreover, nearly three quarters of participants describe themselves as deeply or moderately involved in the organized Jewish community.
Knowledge capital management tends to have far-reaching effects not only because it empowers those who possess it, but also because it builds bridges to populations that haven’t had the benefit of direct investment. Some of today’s most successful and dynamic startup leaders come from strong pluralistic Jewish educational backgrounds, and in turn they are also instilling a love of learning and Torah in Jews and others who grew up entirely outside organized Jewish education. Their communities embrace new members regardless of where they are on their Jewish journey. New vitality has been infused into traditional practice by a commensurate surge in active Jewish participation by people with little previous connection to Jewish communal education and religious practice.
This generation of Jewish leaders and community members came of age in during a boom in Jewish market activity. As products of day-schools and strong supplementary education, Jewish youth groups and camps, as well as Hillel and young adult programs like Birthright, they belong to a burgeoning sector of new Jewish communal life. The organizations and communities they are building reflect a number of core values inculcated in during the Jewish market boom.
At Milken Community High School, a non-denominational day school in Los Angeles, a group of teenagers came together following the tragic death of one of their friends in an alcohol-related car accident. They created The Lev Foundation, an advocacy, education and philanthropic organization that also hosts events and provides transportation solutions to make sure no one ever operates a motor vehicle under the influence of alcohol or drugs. They lead by example and demonstrate the core Jewish value of local communal obligation.
A group of day-school educated North Easterners came together to found the first year-round egalitarian yeshiva called Yeshivat Hadar in New York City. Their beit midrash is the direct outgrowth of the independent minyan they founded, Kehillat Hadar, and also an institute to support the development of independent Jewish spiritual communities, Mechon Hadar. Their entire platform is based on the idea that Jewish community can be self-generated and lead by anyone, rather than depending on established organizations and ordained clergy. They help high-involvement Jews and those looking for challenging Jewish learning figure out what it means to be a lay leader for your own Jewish life.
At Kavana in Seattle a young rabbi with a day school education joined up with a group of successful social and commercial entrepreneurs to invent a new kind of Jewish community that works like a co-op, but offers all the amenities of a synagogue (minus the building, of course). Members of the cooperative, who are called “partners,” take active roles in being both consumers and producers of Jewish experiences and community. Today, Kavana is expanding its Hebrew immersion play group into a full-blown Hebrew immersion preschool, bringing high-quality Jewish education to the children of parents who had little or none themselves. Kavana’s approach resonates with both highly involved Jews and disconnected Jews by focusing on cultivating organic community in intimate settings.
In Boston a group including day-school educated activists created Kavod House (now part of the Moishe House Network), a new model for Jewish community that includes a communal residence, regular Shabbat dinners and holiday celebrations as well as Jewish learning and arts. At the heart of their project is a commitment to social justice work—organizing and advocating for causes within the Jewish world and well beyond it. The community empowers its members to live out Jewish values in everyday life, blurring the line between secular and sacred. Moishe/Kavod House is emblematic of new organizations and communities that build social networks in order to mobilize citizens to repair the world.
With so many beneficiaries of structured Jewish education doing so much, perhaps it’s time to think about the next step in expanding our portfolio of Jewish knowledge capital. If the long-term commitment to Jewish education is part of a multi-generational investment strategy, then the first phase is now complete. Having transformed the meaning of Jewish education and community for thousands of children and families for many years, members of this first generation are now building their own dwellings and learning environments. For their children, pushing for Jewish literacy won’t be a rear-guard action fought half-heartedly with guilt pangs for doing unto their children a Hebrew school experience that was done unto them. Children of the emergents grow up celebrating the full cycle of the Jewish year, absorbing Jewish values, and seeing Jewish learning all around them. Jewish life is everyday life. To them Judaism isn’t drudgework your parents force you to do, it’s actually all the fun you are supposed to have when you get to have a holiday celebration every single week. As was overheard a few years ago from the backseat of a mini-van by a carpooling mother (herself a day school alumna) about a thriving spiritual community startup in Los Angeles:
Kid One: “Do you go to IKAR?”
Kid Two: “What’s IKAR?”
Kid One: “It’s like Hanukkah, but all
Kid One lives in a fertile environment for Jewish innovation, partially because of Jewish knowledge investment spanning a generation. Jewish institutions have provided educated, motivated and passionate Jews, some of whom are leaders in the Innovation Ecosystem. But what if day schools actually became centers for innovation themselves—think Junior Achievement for Jewish social entrepreneurs. Students, like the ones from the Lev Foundation example above, would graduate from high school with a sense that not only was their Jewish communal destiny in their own hands, but that they had the skills and knowledge to chart their own course as adults.
Imagine a high school program that encourages teams of students to launch their own public benefit organizations—to answer a pressing need in their immediate community, to tackle a problem facing their city, or even to take on an issue with national relevance. In addition to teaching social responsibility, this kind of program would educate young people with the real skills to become effective Jewish lay-leaders and professionals in later life. Mentors and community leaders could be enlisted to provide coaching and planning skills. Community organizing, cause-related marketing, and nonprofit fundraising all could be taught in a framework that empowers and challenges young adults to see themselves as not just having a voice, but also possessing the power to change the world for the better.
Ultimately most education is about a simple process: invest young people with knowledge capital and motivate them to do well for themselves and for the world. We plant seeds and hope those seeds will grow into trees that bear fruit. The actual results take years to materialize.
What have we learned from the years of Jewish knowledge investment and the proliferation of new social ventures led by its beneficiaries? First, it worked; fair to say we’ve advanced from hypothesis to solid theory on how to develop committed and educated Jews. Second, we need to keep investing in the day school and other learning program graduates long after they stop being students. The Jewish innovation sector is the applied science laboratory where all that educational pure research is being turned into successful products. There is no reason why Jewish schools can’t also become laboratories for innovation. And third, as the Jewish community is going through crises internal and external, sometimes it makes sense to keep moving forward with an investment strategy that has a proven track record. As our community casts about for solutions to problems of Jewish identity and literacy, juggling urgent needs with long-term challenges, putting money into Jewish day schools and youth education is like choosing T-bills as the Jewish philanthropic vehicle of choice. That investment may take a while to mature, but it sure pays in the end. ♦
From the Editor
Many aspire to educational leadership, but not all achieve it. Interestingly, the success of a leader is actually determined not by the individual, but by the success of his or her team. And while leadership may involve power, power is not leadership. An oft-quoted but unattributed source describes the difference this way:
A boss relies on authority—a leader relies on cooperation.
A boss says “I”—a leader says “we.”
A boss creates fear—A leader creates confidence.
A boss creates resentment—A leader breeds enthusiasm.
A boss knows how—a leader shows how.
A boss fixes blame—a leader fixes mistakes.
A boss makes work drudgery—A leader makes work interesting.
A boss drives—a leader leads.
How exactly does a leader lead? What qualities are required? What skills? Can it be taught, developed, nurtured? These are the questions that the authors in this issue address, from the perspective of board members, student organizations, Midrash, experience and research.
A complex topic deserves insightful commentary; this issue will provide that for its readers. The topic of leadership is timely and vital to the continuing success, even the survival, of the community day school movement, because, as it states in Proverbs: “Where there is no vision, the people perish.”
We know that you will find vision in the articles that lie herein. As you read them, we know that you will become inspired and will find new and exciting ways to reinvigorate your own leadership. ♦