Joseph Telushkin recounts that when President Dwight Eisenhower met with Israeli Prime Minister David Ben-Gurion, the American president said: “It is very hard to be the president of 170 million people.” Ben-Gurion responded: “It’s harder to be the prime minister of 2 million prime ministers.”
HAYIDION The Prizmah Journal
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.
The headship can be a very challenging and highly rewarding position. In recent years, schools as well as other non-profit and commercial organizations have found it increasingly difficult to recruit senior leaders. The headship is in a state of crisis, largely precipitated by a number of seminal factors:
There are several theories of leadership and change found in the popular and scholarly literature. Milken Community High School in Los Angeles faces the dilemma of trips and experiential learning just like any other day school in America. What trips are justified? What trips serve to extend the mission of the school? What happens to those who remain behind? How are such trips scheduled and what is the impact of that scheduling? This year, we have made a real attempt to answer these questions through advanced planning, creative problem solving, and changes in leadership paradigms.
At Jewish weddings and happy occasions, watch the group psychology of the circle dance. There are some people who need to be at the center…Some shuffle about in the middle, happy to be part of the fun with no need to attract attention. Others hover at the margins and will not join. They just want to watch. And on every dance floor there is a person in the circle who looks around the room identifying those on the margins, outstretches his or her arm, and invites person after person to be part of the circle. That’s the leader. (Erica Brown,Inspired Jewish Leadership)
Over the past several years I have had the good fortune of working for Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life, combining the two perspectives of the Shema (“You shall teach your children diligently”) and of the Talmud by engaging our young people in experiential education under the assumption that they are truly the builders of our people and of the world. In Pirkei Avot, the Ethics of our Fathers, our organization’s namesake Hillel the Elder stated, “A shy person cannot learn” (Mishnah Avot 2:6). Today, our organization encourages Jewish students to leave their comfort zones, to push their personal boundaries and to take an active part in enriching the Jewish people and the world.
Some say that leadership is difficult to define but easy to recognize in people. Others say that America is suffering from a leadership crisis and that our nation has little confidence in the honesty, integrity, and ethics of leaders in all segments of society. Although the concept of leadership is often studied, researched, and discussed, the art of leadership is still misunderstood, debated, and often neglected. It is resolved, however, that leadership skills can be developed and more intentional endeavors must be made to cultivate bright, young leaders for the future.
Ray Levi and David Truslow were initially brought together through a PEJE School Improvement Journey Grant and have been conversing regularly for four years. This attempt to speak in writing reflects an effort to replicate the reflective dialogue that is at the heart of a coaching relationship.
When a head of school is an effective leader, in harmony with the strategic direction set by the board, everyone—a head of school, board, and school community—wins. The one key strategy that most strongly promotes a virtuous cycle of leadership growth for the head and strategic thinking for the board is a well functioning Head Support and Evaluation Committee.
Anyone who knows anything about Jewish day schools (and for that matter, anyone who knows anything about schools in general) acknowledges how critically important a talented and inspiring leader is to the success of each school.
Sitting here one week before Pesach I am struck by an uncomfortable truth: Moses was not a great leader. He was afraid of Pharaoh, afraid of his own people, and he made practically no decisions in the entire Exodus story without direct instruction from G-d. No wonder his name is absent from the Haggadah.
With all the glory come all the headaches. At times, being a leader can be extremely challenging. We are in one of those times. The economic downturn has caused the Jewish community, and day schools in particular, to be especially concerned with raising the funds we need to make our schools run. At the same time, some parents are thinking about taking their children out of our schools in order to reduce their household expenses. How can lay leaders and administrators break though the panic and anxiety they may be feeling to continue to lead their schools in the right direction?
Aaron’s role in the building of the Golden Calf (Exodus 32) has long been the subject of heated debate: was he complicit in this act of idol worship? Or was he merely pacifying the people, who were anxious at Moshe’s delay in returning with the tablets?
The leadership guru Warren Bennis believes that leadership is not taught but learned. In his article “No Limits to Learning: Bridging the Human Gap,” Bennis mentions two conventional modes of study, maintenance learning and shock learning, and advocates for a third: innovative learning.
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