HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal

Leadership Is a Privilege

by Steven Burg Issue: Nurturing Leadership
TOPICS : Leadership

Interacting with teens is an indescribably rewarding experience. Teens are at that unique time in their lives when they are on the verge of independence. They are as intelligent as adults, often quite mature, and usually extremely enthusiastic. One of the greatest opportunities we can offer teens is that of empowering themselves. When providing teens with leadership roles, it is imperative to give them room to be creative, to make mistakes, and even to give them the “freedom to fail.” Given the chance, teens can reach unparalleled heights; if nothing else, their mistakes help build character.

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. ♦

Rabbi Steven Burg is International Director of the National Council of Synagogue Youth, and the National Director of Program Development for the Orthodox Union. He can be reached at burg@ou.org.

Go To the Next Article

Cultivating Knowledge Capital for...

A generation consisting of what are arguably the most well educated Jews in American history is flooding the......

Nurturing Leadership

Leadership is not a job title; it’s a character trait that day schools seek to cultivate in each student and extend to all stakeholders. Starting with Jewish perspectives on leadership, this issue investigates ways to support the leadership of the head of school, recommends leadership qualities to develop among students, and gives guidance for developing leadership in faculty and board members.