I have also been thinking about leadership as a member of Temple’s Leadership Development Committee. Temple president Ellen Torres has been reporting in her articles on this group. To stimulate thought and discussion on this topic of leadership, we all read materials from the Union for Reform Judaism and responded to particular ideas that were presented, creating our own individual reflections on what it means to be a leader in a congregation.
Each of the statements had something different to add to our “leadership landscape.” I want to share with you my piece on leadership and add some comments as well.
"Being a leader and a role model"
I believe in a collaborative leadership approach that places leaders in a position to guide, to suggest, to develop ideas without judgment, to listen to new perspectives, to engender partnerships with other leaders and, in a congregation, with the rabbi. Sharing a vision that will enable the rabbi and Temple leaders to grow together would be the goal, with congregants offering a foundation through their participation. Being a role model in a congregational context, for me, comes from how I experienced my parents' leadership in their many years of service in Temple life, as well as other individuals I have known who have served congregations with distinction.
My role model criteria list, in the ideal, would be:
*Commitment to the congregation's goals/vision
*Persistence in making Judaism come alive in the com-munity
*Trying to engender a feeling of spiritual uplift for all who enter, including for oneself *Integrity
*A sense of the holy, whether within the tasks them-selves performed as a leader, or in applying to volunteer service an understanding of Jewish teachings that grow out of the holidays (rest from “doing the business of congregational life" for Shabbat, freedom for Passover, dedication for Chanukah, restoring relationships to equilibrium for the High Holy Days).
*Being welcoming to every soul who walks into the building or attends community events so that others will do the same.
Humility is an integral part of leadership. At the Temple Beth-El Wednesday breakfast on January 26, I presented Jewish views on “Humility,” a topic that was discussed at our annual Interfaith conversation sponsored by the Adult Education Committee in November. As I prepared for the Wednesday breakfast talk, I was reminded of the great value of the Musar Movement in Judaism of the 19th Century (and earlier), which developed the concept of “measures” (Middot) of character that people could study in order to develop and strengthen their own integrity. In his book Everyday Holiness, Alan Morinis, a contemporary advocate of exploring the principles of the Musar movement, placed humility at the foundation of personal character development. Some of the practices based in humility that are cited in Musar literature are: deference, forbearance (being slow to anger and refrain-ing from responding to a slight directed at us), appreciation of the time we have on earth, habitually honoring others, attention to the blessings that have come our way, and honoring the One who provides us with those blessings.
When I asked those who were present at the break-fast about the traits of people whom they consider humble, they produced the following list, which includes traits and approaches that any leader should consider in his/her practice: thinking of “we” instead of “I”; putting the needs of others first; making others feel valued and appreciated; using discretion; being a good listener; being a facilitator/negotiator who sees his/her partners as full equals; being able to laugh at oneself; being open-minded; showing respect to everyone; seeing something superior to you in every person; doing/giving for the love of doing/giving; recognizing one’s limitations; exhibiting modesty (including about one’s accomplish-ments); and acknowledging God as the source of everything and as a reason for our humility.
We often speak of the word “spirituality” in our conversations about religion and faith. I believe that it is a sense of the holy, of living in our own time or in our own Jewish perspectives, as well as an approach to life that identifies a divine presence as a constant companion, that is the beginning of a spiritual life. Whether one is a leader or a member at this particular moment, all of us have the potential to lead, teach, listen, learn and seek to better ourselves as a part of a caring community. That is the task that we can humbly take on with a sacred sense of responsibility for the present and the future.