It is through the quality of our leaders and the impact of their leadership action that we create the capacity for all our organisations to learn, to adapt and to grow.
Today when Jewish people are facing ever more challenges in Britain, we need to invest in developing our leaders. The Jewish community needs strong, talented leaders – both professional and lay. We need our best people to want to join our communal organisations and for those organisations to be great places to work, where their careers are developed and there’s a strong partnership between the lay and the professional teams. And we need to invest in our talent pipeline to build new generations of leaders ready to take on these roles.
One of the challenges of the current Jewish model is our lack of diversity – too many of our leaders look the same – Ashkenazi, male, professional, metropolitan – it’s often hard to tell the difference between them.
For more genuine diversity, we need more women taking on leadership roles and younger people ready to step up even when they believe that their career, family, and home-building are priorities. We need to consider what makes for Jewish leadership. Is it just being trained by Jews, with Jews and for the purpose of serving Jews? I think not; as such an introspective model is likely to drive away precisely the sort of people we seek.
A Jewish model of leadership has to be so much more – firstly based on Jewish thinking provided in a context and framework that is inclusive, inspirational and actionable. A Jewish model should be values based, building on the core Jewish values which drive growth, attracts the young and that brings us together as a community. Jewish leadership is based on a belief that we are there to be a light unto the nations, to strive for a better world for all and to ensure that those that follow have role models in which they can take pride.
At the Yom Hashoah Commemoration this month, the Chief Rabbi told us that: “The call of the hour is for strong, solid and responsible leadership”. Often used in a business context, this leadership style has components that are equally relevant to Jewish Leadership: It’s about bringing a vision to life and being the custodian of the vision sharing it widely, so that the vision belongs to all. True leaders are coaches and team builders, encouraging the greatest contributions from as many as possible. And add the ability to identify the ‘right’ course of action and to act on it. As well as the need to cultivate moral and spiritual development so as to establish and operate as respected and trusted role models. Leadership is not just about the leader. It must be inclusive, creating an environment where people can find a meaning and feel respected and recognised. And leaders are change agents; conscious that the decisions they take now will have consequences for the generations that come next. These are all attributes of the kind of leaders our community needs.
For our community to thrive, we need leaders to step up to leadership. For some this will be sharing their time and talents. For others it will be in innovating, reshaping or building on current activity. Others will be advocates or spokespeople. We need all these types of leadership and more. And different ways of delivering the skills to achieve them so that leadership is accessible to all.
Our community needs people with specific skills, people who care, people who give their time, energy, money and contacts with generosity, and warmth. Above all leadership is about giving and not taking. David Dangoor is one of the great leaders in our community who epitomises Jewish leadership. He’s a role model whose values have been integrated into The Dangoor Senior Leadership Programme (run by LEAD, a division of the Jewish Leadership Council). As an immigrant from Baghdad, a refugee from his homeland, a family man and a philanthropist, he has sponsored this cross-communal programme bringing lay and professional leaders together to become more assured and effective. It’s a powerful programme and a great start.