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Leadership vs. Change

Marty’s favorite definition of leadership is that leadership is disappointing your own people at a rate they can absorb. One of Obama’s most attractive traits is that he has the capacity to stand back and see what is happening while he is in the midst of the action. He appears to reflect in real time, unlike many people in public life who are so caught up in their public personae that they find it difficult to reflect at all, never mind while the action is still going on. So he understands and has acknowledged that he will not, cannot, meet the multiple and grandiose expectations that we have placed on him. Obama’s cautionary notes also remind us of our own responsibility. At this possible turning point, what is our share of the work?

In our work with Jewish organizations, we often see the disappointment that results from the hyperbolic expectations people have about CEOs. How these critical moments are managed is a real test of leadership.

These moments also test us, in terms of our own civic engagement – in this country and in the Jewish community. We wrote a how-to book, Leveling the Playing Field, because we believe that gender equity is vital to the health of Jewish organizations, and that everyone can exercise leadership on this issue. If you’re sitting in the corner office, or just getting started in your career, or even reading this blog at home as a curious onlooker, you can make a difference.

In the Jewish community, gender equity has been the problem that many people would prefer would take care of itself. Gender equity is often removed from the agenda of priorities, under the excuse of external crisis or urgent agency business. So, this kind of deep-rooted organizational change may take a long time. Meanwhile, you need to grab opportunities and take risks even if you’re not completely ready or the climate is not exactly right. Plot a course between the ideal and the realistic, between what is desirable and what is achievable.

Everyone asks us what the "promised land" will look like. We want to know what you think. Frame the big vision, as well as the "small wins" along the way, and let us know how you imagine a Jewish world in which women and men share leadership.

Shifra Bronznick, Didi Goldenhar, and Marty Linsky, co-authors of Leveling the Playing Field: Advancing Women in Jewish Organizational Life, spent the past week guest blogging on Jewcy. This is their parting post. Want more? Buy their book!

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