Why the way we treat our leadership affects our children

Jewish Communal leaders spend a lot of time agonising over what we perceive to be a decreasing interest in ‘the youth’ identifying with the Jewish community. 

I think we need to step back and recognise that every generation laments what they see as the imminent death of communal involvement in ‘the youth’. It’s so prevalent that it’s almost a rite of passage for communal leaders over 45. (see page 42 for inspirational Modern Maccabees)

I also feel uncomfortable with the term ‘the youth’, as if a descriptor as broad as the year you were born says anything meaningful about you. We certainly don’t see ourselves as the same as every other person our age, so we should stop referring to other age groups in this way. 

It’s Adar, the month I was born in. (See page 18 for more on Adar) I was born 3253 years, to the day, after Moses stepped down as one of the greatest leaders of the Jewish people. But it was 3292 years, give or take a few days, after Moses stepped down that I had the pleasure of meeting Clive Lawton at a talk he gave through the Eliot Osrin Leadership Institute entitled “What makes a Jewish leader?”. He spoke about leaders who are like Moses and leaders who are like Aaron, and the need to find out which you are, and use each other’s strengths to really lead effectively.

Clive Lawton is an OBE as well as a founder of Limmud International and Chief Executive of the Commonwealth Jewish Council — just a few mentions amongst a dizzying array of  leadership positions he holds, and has held in the past. 

In his talk, he also told us that there is “no point spending all your time saying ‘Oh, I wish we had a different leader’. If you have a leader, that’s who you must work with.” 

We need to remember that. The leaders we have must be the leaders we work with. Unless we are willing to replace them ourselves. And to clarify, when I say leaders I mean all leadership; political, communal, educational, religious, parental.

Lawton went on to explain why it is critical for us to change the way we treat our leadership. Firstly; people behave better when they are loved. “When they feel embattled, and attacked and denigrated, they behave less well. Therefore, if you stand around your [leaders] and say ‘you’re great, we are so lucky to have you’ you will get better [leaders].” 

The second thing, he explained, was this; “Jewish homes are full of communal leaders saying to their children ‘I don’t know why I do this, it’s madness, don’t get involved, whatever you do, I’m giving it up next year, I’m not doing this again.’ Parents are saying this to their children continuously. As if this is called clever planning for the future.” 

Lawton concludes by pointing out  that, “we ought to be saying to our children. ‘You know why I do this, don’t you? Because this is a fabulous thing to do. Not only is it necessary, but I get huge satisfaction out of it, and I believe I’m doing something important. And the community needs it, and if you grow up to be the right kind of person, maybe you’ll do this stuff too, and I hope so, because I’ll be very proud of you if you do.’”

One of the best ways to get the attention of any age group, through any medium, is through quality messages. And what better message than the one that says we should treat our leadership with respect and care? Not only to make them better leaders today, but also to ensure that positions of leadership look appealing to the next generation.

For last month’s Lindy with a why click here

To download the full PDF of the March Cape Jewish Chronicle, click here

To read the most read article of last month, click here


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