Working with 16 Community Leaders was a Game Changer

By Nicky Goldman

American President John Quincy Adams once said: “If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader.” For generations within our community we have just expected our leaders to have these virtues, without specific training, support or guidance beyond youth organisations or the Adam Science Leadership Programme.

But the nature of leadership is changing. Globally, companies are moving to more inclusive and less hierarchical models to empower their teams. There is also a huge amount of investment involved; in 2012 some $14billion was spent on leadership development in the USA alone. We can no longer expect individuals to simply pick up skills learnt in the work-place or as young people and apply them to diverse and growing Jewish communities.

In the present day, our leaders of Jewish organisations also face even more varied and extreme challenges than at any point in our recent history. There are external factors such as the dramatic rise in anti-Semitism, increasing exposure on social and mainstream media, to anti-Israel campaigns and the reduction in funding from central and local government, which threaten the future of many of our vibrant organisations.

We are not just facing external threats; every charity within the Jewish community is faced with issues surrounding increasing costs with a growing uncertainty around long-term philanthropy from a new generation donors.

It is easy when faced with these issues to go with the flow, to survive as an institution or a community from one minute to the next and deal with issues, as and when they arise, as best we can. But to be effective we must be more strategic and mindful in making long term plans which address key concerns within our community.

Over the last 18 months I have had the pleasure of working with 16 current and future leaders within our community on the GAMECHANGERS programme.

During that time we engaged with some of today’s most inspirational leaders in the UK, Israel and the USA. Our programme enabled us to explore, absorb, analyse, think through and grapple with the key communal issues.

The group identified and focused their efforts on three key issues which represent major challenges to our community going forward.

The first is the disengagement, disunity and perceived exclusion, along with poor Jewish literacy which causes fewer within our community to identify as Jewish with pride.

The second is the change in philanthropic giving patterns which threatens the sustainability of the community and the third was the need we have as a community to identify and strategically plan for long term threats and opportunities and to implement change.

All three of these challenges go to the heart of our community and I am delighted that the GAMECHANGERS has suggested new concepts which hopefully will add new, innovative strings to our community’s bow.

But I have no doubt that what our community will gain the most from this programme, is a group of 16 peers who have a wealth of knowledge, skills and abilities to tackle these issues head on. They all have demonstrated an ability to work with each other, to trust and to respect and how much can be achieved through the process of collaboration.

We have already seen it pay off. Our GAMECHANGERS are prominent leaders with their organisations. From trustees at UJIA to Vice Presidents of the Board of Deputies, we can see the impact this programme is having.

But it is not enough. We are extremely fortunate to be in position where we have large numbers of volunteers giving up their time to take on many responsibilities within our community. Now more than ever do we have a duty to invest in our leaders, to give them the best possible opportunity to succeed.

As part of the JLC, we are in a unique position to bring together the many institutions within our community and ensure that we all have the tools to confront new challenges.

Working with 16 extremely talented current and future leaders over the last 18 months was an absolute privilege. But now is not the time for complacency, now is the time for strategic thinking about the future of our community as well as careful nurturing of the talent within it.

It is also time for us to start planning our second group of GAMECHANGERS in 2017, so that even more of our community will benefit from this game-changing experience.

Nicky Goldman is Executive Director of Lead: Inspiring Jewish Leaders.

This article originally appeared in The Jewish News (UK); reprinted with permission.