Ten years ago, Yeshiva University School Partnership launched YU Lead, a leadership development program for Jewish day school educational leaders. The program was a response to two connected needs that the YUSP experienced in the field: the necessity for school leaders to demonstrate adaptive leadership skills to meet the ever-changing needs of 21st century Orthodox day schools, and the absence of formal pathways to leadership for emerging and existing leaders. YU Lead aimed to increase the capacity of leaders to successfully lead in Jewish day schools, strengthen the pipeline and retention of qualified leaders, and build connections among professionals in the field. The program was designed to inspire a transformation in the professional path to Jewish educational leadership, from incidental and haphazard to deliberate and meaningful.
YU Lead launched in 2012 as the first educational leadership program of its kind in the field. With the input of day school leaders, program leadership incorporated best practices of learning and teaching into the pedagogy, structure and curriculum. The first cohort learned through online asynchronous and synchronous classes, alongside in-person experiences. In order to meet the needs of leaders at different career stages, participants were divided into cohorts with professionals who shared similar positions. The nine-month curriculum comprised a survey course of leadership in day schools, and thought leaders from the field taught units on topics ranging from time management to hiring to Israel advocacy. The program offered participants professional networking opportunities, relevant learning experiences and valuable leadership training.
From YU Lead to YOU Lead
Thanks to the vision and wisdom of its founders, the program today shares much in common with the first iteration of YU Lead, and it continues to evolve and thrive. When Prizmah formed in 2016, the program transitioned from YU Lead to YOU Lead. While the structure of the program has remained largely the same, key elements - particularly in the areas of curriculum, cohort and coaching - have shifted in alignment both with the needs of Jewish day schools, and with research in the broader leadership field. As YOU Lead develops, a commitment to reflective practice on the part of the participants and program administrators remains at its core. This dedication to constant reflection and adaptive practice amid complexity contributes to the continued success of the program in supporting the professional growth of flexible, ethical and resilient Jewish day school leaders.
In the last decade, the curriculum of YOU Lead has shifted in order to prepare participants for the immense and varied challenges of educational leadership. The Learning Leadership Landscape Study, which Rosov Consulting completed in 2017 on behalf of Prizmah with the support of The AVI CHAI Foundation, revealed compelling data about day school leadership development. The study found that capacities - what leaders can do - are important, but insufficient for exceptional communal leadership, while dispositions - how a leader approaches the world - are essential. The study outlined four leadership dispositions - intellectual, emotional, ethical and practical - and asserted that leadership development programs can support participants in cultivating these dispositions through explicit commitments. This research inspired adjustments to the YOU Lead curriculum and content. The program refined its goals by committing to helping aspiring and existing leaders develop the necessary capacities and dispositions for Jewish day school leadership. The curriculum shifted away from a survey course towards a more focused and explicit approach to nurturing leadership dispositions, through modules such as Adaptive Leadership, Giving Effective Feedback, and Difficult Conversations.