When Will the Jewish Community See Our Own Peggy Olsen?

By Tzvi Raviv

Reading news about hiring in the Jewish community I noticed two hiring trends within Jewish communal service. The trends are hiring an Executive Director (ED) mainly from the outside the organization and hiring mainly men to leadership positions.

The 2014 November issue of Harvard Business Review (HBR) presented a ranking of the Best-Performing CEOs in the World. The vast majority of those CEOs are what you call insiders, people that were promoted within the company. The common wisdom is that an insider ED will perform better when the company is performing well, while outsiders perform better in time of an emergency. Recent hires to manage major Jewish organizations, Hillel, Metrowest Jewish Federation and ADL, were outsiders.

Based on the HBR article and the hiring trends in the Jewish community maybe Jewish for-propose organizations are in constant crisis mode, seeking for the outsider savior. An open question is what is the message received by people within the organizations when their experience, skills and talent are ignored when it comes to hire the next ED.

The majority of people that work for Jewish for-purpose organizations are women. Yet, based on the data presented The Forward, women are 13.5% of organizational executives. Those employees represent the culture organization. Jewish organizations are ignoring at least 50% of the talent by hiring mainly men to ED positions. My predication is that also the next time a major Jewish for-propose organization is going to hire an executive it is going to be an outsider man. I will say that based on the tendency to hire an outside man the Jewish communal service is still in the Mad Men era, but even at Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce they promoted Peggy Olson from within.

These hiring trends ultimately erode the value Jewish organizations are providing to the Jewish community. It is the responsibility of the lay leadership to appoint the most qualified professional leadership. Hiring committees should be educated on the effects of hiring outsiders versus insiders, understanding the value of locally grown talent with social capital within the organization in comparison to outsiders that arrive with a fresh perspective on the organization. Another tool will be to provide professional development and presence of true and meaningful mentors who can help and encourage women to apply for executive management positions.

As a community, we cannot afford the luxury of ignoring insiders and women when looking for the next Executive Director.

Tzvi Raviv is the managing director at Lis Ventures. Tzvi is a former Jewish professional and a graduate of the Hornstein Jewish Professional Leadership Program.