Leadership comes in many shapes and sizes. It is not limited to age brackets or background. Although it is hard to find people that agree on anything these days, most people I speak to agree that the world is faced with a very complex set of interlinking problems and challenges and that there is a lack of leadership.
Of course, even defining what leadership and what type of leadership is required is itself an issue about which every 2 people have 3 opinions.
I have been on the road participating in a series of events related to business and philanthropy over the last few days and have met with some inspiring people. Leadership does indeed appear in surprising places.
I have spent time with Rabbi Benji Levene, who brings soul and storytelling as he tries to lead. For him the stories are beyond simple repartee, it is a form of testimony of the “greats” as he likes to call them, from a generation past, whose very characteristics as greats are changed and revised according to the religious or dogmatic requirements of the period.
Adina Bar Shalom, Rabbanit and educational innovator in the Haredi world. She leads as a women in a very male dominated environment. She battles to fight for her inner truth, at the same time as being faithful to parts of her Father’s legacy, that clearly she no longer fully believes in.
I met a business and community leader who within a backdrop of decreasing numbers, causing worry in the Conservative Movement across the US, has managed through leadership and partnership with the Synagogue clergy to double numbers at their school, made Israel a crucial part of the ethos and added dynamism and insight into the Shul services. All done with understated modesty, but with unending determination.
Yesterday I attended a conference for mainly liberal Jewish American philanthropists, designed to educate themselves on the multiple topics related to the challenges facing Haredi society in Israel and how Israeli society is facing them.
I joined a panel with an amazing young Israeli entrepreneur, who out of choice and her own value set, is trying to compete for capital and customers along with her secular, mostly male counterparts, whilst doubling up as mother of 7 and collel wife (with pride). For her, there is no contradiction between Haredi and being successful in high-tech.
I listened to philanthropists who manage to set aside their own value set whilst trying to address the question, attempting to see things from the “others” point of view and seeking a solution, rather than preaching.
I saw leadership amongst competing interests as many activists set aside their own egos as they sat together to debate both amongst themselves and also with philanthropists about how best to create solutions.
Finally I want to reflect on two young pioneers, both coming from extremely closed backgrounds, who through their own initiative, thought and independence are managing to chart a course for themselves, but as is the way of leaders, bringing along with them others in an effort to improve life for themselves, their families and their communities.
Leaders must lead through inspiration and personal example. With more or less caution according to style and personality they brave controversy as they seek their own right path. They do not see demons at every corner and tackle the future without paranoia. This does not mean that they are reckless, simply they are not driven by fear itself or indeed the fear of failure or change.
It is inspiring to see each one as he or she deals with the path they have chosen, but it is truly exciting when they can sit together and collaborate. The multiplying effect of these energies can unlock almost unlimited potential and force for good. Together they have the power to overcome even the most complex of problems.
We face as a country and as a people multiple and complex challenges, but we also have unbelievable leadership and leadership potential. Our responsibility is to invest, enabling those with that potential to realise it, and make sure that they amplify one another through cooperation and collaboration, sometimes the biggest of all leadership challenges!