Leadership: Presumptions and Practice
What comes to mind when we think about leadership? Mention the word, and in our heads, we immediately begin to assemble images of the great figures of all time: Moses, Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr.
Who would we carve into our own personal Mt. Rushmore?
We are generally quick to imagine leadership to be about making history, and, yet, far more often, it is less about what may be remembered than it is about what leaders project and what they make possible—particularly in moments of crisis. And these days are most certainly providing us with more than our share of such moments.
As the world contends with the unfolding dynamics around COVID-19, it won’t be great speeches that survive as the hallmark of leadership. Rather, it will be the ways in which those in positions of responsibility conduct themselves in the face of uncertainty and unease among the people for whom they bear responsibility: Staff. Students. Seniors. Whole communities.
Acutely conscious of what we know, and in this particular environment, of what it is even possible to know, the leaders of our movement are making choices and decisions about how best to safeguard those in our care, both in the moment and with an eye on the horizon. Most of the time, we think about the horizon as being quite distant, but not in the midst of a crisis. At times such as these, the horizon, that which lies beyond what we can clearly see, seems very near at hand.
With the appearance of calm, confidence, and determination, our leaders—both lay and professional— are fulfilling amongst the most important responsibilities, making it possible for those around us to serve our communities effectively, to the very best of our abilities, as we make our way through this period of uncertainty one day, and even one hour, at a time. These responsibilities may not be the stuff of history, but it may well be these very moments that come to mind at some point down the road, when those in our communities reflect upon various aspects of leadership.
In a moment of crisis, leaders are by no means immune from stress or concern for themselves—or for loved ones—but our responsibilities oblige us to rise above them. As we approach the celebration of Purim, we can draw wisdom and inspiration from the Book of Esther, whose face is another worthy of our personal Mount Rushmore:
“And who knows, perhaps you have attained to royal position for just such a crisis.”
.וּמִי יוֹדֵעַ–אִם-לְעֵת כָּזֹאת, הִגַּעַתְּ לַמַּלְכוּת
While we eagerly await the day after COVID-19, we can take great pride in the conduct and caliber of the leaders across our movement. May they continue to go from strength to strength.
Shabbat shalom שַׁבָּת שָׁלוֹם