Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Thoughts on Leadership from MH Hoboken

In leadership, sometime we just do. Knowledge, pedagogy, intellectualism, education, programming, planning, organizing, and resources are all important aspects of leadership but sometimes, as a leader, you just have to take action and make a decision. You don't know if others will follow, you don't know if they will pick up where you leave off, and many times you don't even look before you leap.

Most of these moments are small droplets of time, they are quick visceral decisions over seemingly unimportant and minuscule issues - from how to treat the awkward fellow attending a program for the first time, to whether to give a darn about recycling at your 80+ person Hanukah celebration, to whom to ask in your community to do Motze, to whether you will make an announcement on behalf of another Jewish organization... These instinctive calls we make are not reflective of laziness or sloth; our knee jerk responses are not a negative but are our natural desire to create community that we want to be a part of. These quick calls reflect less on our communities, which are determined more by our house meetings, than they do ourselves. Meetings with housemates are enjoyable but deliberate and though fun, they are fundamentally formal. These meetings are broad in scope, often covering more than one months worth of programming and discussing past points of success and of improvement. It is in the slippery but inevitable detail, the unspecified minutia that has fallen through the cracks, that we find out what type of leader each of us are. When the otherwise best laid plans of a fully cognizant community building effort isn't even part of our consciousness is when we set the tone and tenor of our communities. It is in these small programmatic puddles that our communities see who we really are - are we deferring to men to be our leaders of Jewish ritual or are we empowering all community members? Are we compromising our values for expediency or are we going the extra mile for our beliefs? Are we, as residents, the new "it" crowd or should we be welcoming, inclusive, and empowering?

While it is obvious that the singular voice of the written word tends to hyperbole it is just as true that each droplet decision we make adds to another, pooling together like rain that feeds into a stream and into a river where it eventually has a strong current. Leadership requires that ability to make a snap decision but if we are not cognitively aware of the aggregate effect of our actions than we may end up with communal currents we ourselves do not like. Sometimes to be a leader, you must swim against the current even if its of your own making.

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