Why it shouldn’t be lonely at the top

  • RabbiJuliaMargolis1
A while ago, I had the privilege of attending meetings with fellow rabbis. It was a mixture of business and retreat. There was so much to take away from our time together as leaders, some from the business sessions, some from the times of retreat, but a lot from just being around the table over food and relaxation time. Sometimes the best lessons we learn come from conversations had during coffee breaks.
by Rabbi Julia Margolis, Beit Luria | Nov 19, 2020

Never underestimate the power of leading in a crowd. Leaders should do whatever it takes to get into a crowd of leaders, and learn as much as possible. When you meet a crowd of leaders, you learn that much of their struggle is also your struggle. If you are struggling as a leader, there’s a good chance that someone in the crowd of leaders is going through the same struggle as you. It’s a good reminder for us that we are all human beings with different backgrounds, lessons, and interpretations.

Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego were three Judahite men that were thrown into a “fiery furnace” by Nebuchadnezzar, the king of Babylon, when they refused to bow down to the king’s image in Chapter 3 of the Book of Daniel. They were all leaders, given authority over provinces in Babylon. They had made tough leadership calls, and literally, they faced the fire together.

We learn that tough times don’t last, determined leaders do. When you’re in the dark and wondering if you’re ever going to survive it, you realise that by the grace of G-d, you’re going to make it. When you’re leading in a crowd, you experience, through others, that the G-d who called you, the very same one who is allowing you to be shared by the fire, is the same one who sustains you and carries you when you are too weak to put one foot in front of another.

So, when we read Torah portion Tol’dot, we read about Isaac and Rebecca and their twin boys, Jacob and Esau. Sometimes we read this narrative and cringe. But maybe, this year, let’s think differently. Let’s think from a leadership point of view how this might have gone differently with the benefit of a little bit of modern wisdom and insight. How can we learn from the example of our ancestors, the good things they did, the way they also loved and treasured their children and their community? Maybe we can also learn to be a little bit better as leaders of our families and our synagogues.

While it’s tempting to believe that you are G-d’s gift to your organisation, you realise that when you’re leading in a crowd, the only reason you are able to lead and be present is because of the giants that have gone before you. You hear stories of legends that seem larger than life, that had it far tougher than you’re ever going to have it. Stories of women who boldly answered the call of G-d to preach and be a leader in a patriarchal society, such as Rabbi Regina Jonas z”l.

This is when you learn the valuable lesson that if you decide to lead, you were never called to lead by yourself. You need others. As the old adage goes, the more the merrier.

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