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Rabbi Hayim Herring: "How do Leaders Look?"

Nov 3, 2011

rear view mirrorDid you ever try to drive without a rear view mirror? What about driving with one of your side view mirrors sadly dangling from the doorframe? Or, have you had the experience of driving with an annoying crack in your front windshield or with your rear windshield covered with fog?

Over the years, I've had all of these experiences. (I remember, especially, the time when a certain family member dislodged the driver's side view mirror while backing out of the garage, and then proceeded to blow a hole in the tire while driving in reverse over it—not recommended!)

None of these problems with windshields and mirrors are beneficial and, while they can be repaired, they are often costly and dangerous. They create unsafe driving conditions because while a good driver spends the majority of time looking ahead, he or she also has to look to either side and observe what's coming up from behind.

And that's what leadership is: spending some time understanding your organization's past, being aware of what other organizations on either side of you are doing now, and primarily leading confidently and safely to the next destination.

If you're a leader, ask yourself:

  1. How much energy do you spend mired in your organization's past?
  2. How much time do you worry about what others to the right or left of you are saying?
  3. How much effort do you give to achieving your next big goal?

Within the Jewish community, we need fewer leaders who spend time reliving a past that is not returning. We need fewer leaders who move too timidly because they are concerned about what those around them will say if they take a new route. We need leaders who, while sensitive to hindsight and peripheral vision, know that their primary task is to look ahead and give confidence to those whom they lead to do so as well.

We are the Biblical Abraham and Sarah's spiritual heirs, whom God commanded lekh lekhah–journey forth. We can draw upon their courage and confidently move ahead into the future, even if we don't have complete knowledge of where we are going. That's what faith is ultimately about. Like Abraham, authentic leaders look ahead.

Rabbi Menachem Creditor
Congregation Netivot Shalom  || Bay Area Masorti ||  ShefaNetwork 
Rabbis for Women of the Wall  || 
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