By Rabbi Moshe ben Asher, Ph.D. & Magidah Khulda bat Sarah
For much of our professional lives, we worked as congregational and community organizers. We had an axiom in that work: “Whatever the problem, whatever the solution, do leadership development!”
That maxim reflects an understanding that the current leadership is often working itself into an early organizational grave, because it’s typically a miniscule group of maximum workers, doing everything for everybody. And no matter what challenges an organization is facing, the answer to the question, “What would it mean to have a surplus of committed, competent leaders?” is always positive.
But invariably the one thing that falls through the cracks in congregational life is leadership development, the strategy and tactics necessary to swell or even maintain the ranks of leadership.
When existing leaders acknowledge this simple principle, they tend to leap to the question of leadership recruitment: “How can we recruit many more people into leadership roles?” they ask. And then, ironically, the leadership development process seems to falter for lack of an effective recruiting strategy and workable tactics because, as they say, “We’ve tried everything and nothing works – people here are just too apathetic.”
What’s wrong with this picture?
The focus is on methods of recruiting instead of the substance of leadership roles. We’re usually trying to figure out how to find people who will fill positions that often, if not invariably, entail onerous burdens in the form of endless time-consuming drudgery or serving as the lightning rod for organizational tension and conflict.
It’s not exactly the ideal recruiting poster for congregational leadership!
What we’re not offering potential leaders is an inspiring vision of what we can be and do as a congregational community. What we’re not offering potential leaders is the opportunity to lead rather than simply occupy a formal office that saps one’s time and spirit. What we’re not offering potential leaders is the opportunity to be a model of a life well-lived, not only for oneself and one’s family, but for one’s congregational community, country, and people.
Where do we begin to change that leadership-recruiting poster?
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