Leadership in 5781 - September 25, 2020

Shana tova – a healthy and happy New Year to you!
It is nice to see that the skies are clearer, although the wildfires continue. Too many people are living in shelters or otherwise away from their homes and need our support. I am proud to share that we have raised over $65,000 in our wildfire relief effort and have already allocated the funds across the state – see list here. If you would like to make a contribution to the wildfire relief fund, please click here.
Early last week I completed businessman David Rubenstein’s new book, How to Lead. It is a compilation of interviews with well-known leaders from a variety of disciplines and definitely worth the read.
In the book, he outlines a series of characteristics successful leaders demonstrate based on his years of public service and private business successes:
Luck – There is no doubt that successful leaders seem to have luck along the way.
Desire to Succeed – A leader must possess a desire to succeed – to achieve something of note, to make a mark in the world, to create a product or service of real interest and value to others.
Pursuit of Something New and Unique – To go where others have yet tried to go.
Hard Working/Long Hours – There is no shortcut to becoming a leader. It is impossible to develop the requisite skills in five days a week, nine to five.
Focus – Focus your energies on truly mastering one skill or subject. Broaden your areas of focus only after credibility has been established with peers and others in the one area where you are a master.
Failure – Learn from the experience and be motivated to prove the failure was an aberration. Failure teaches humility, and exponentially enhances the desire to succeed the next time.
Persistence – You will always encounter resistance from those who like or respect the status quo. The key is to persist when others say no or resist the change you want to make.
Persuasiveness – It is impossible to lead if no one is following. A leader can persuade others to follow through one of three basic means of communications: writing something that inspires readers; saying something that motivates listeners; or doing something that sets an example for others to follow. More specifically, people follow individuals who can persuade them of the merits or wisdom of their views or actions.
Humble Demeanor – More effective and enduring leaders have a humility that shows they recognize their own weaknesses and their own good luck.
Credit-Sharing – The most effective leaders inevitably realize that they can accomplish a great deal more if they are willing to share the credit with others. John F. Kennedy famously said, “Victory has a hundred fathers, while defeat is an orphan.”
The Ability to Keep Learning – Leaders need to expand their knowledge every day – to exercise their most unique muscle -- their brain. Failing to do so makes it difficult to keep up with a rapidly changing world and with the increasingly large amounts of information that can be helpful in being an informed, knowledgeable leader.
Integrity – Most effective leaders are committed to highly ethical behavior. As has been said, “It takes a lifetime to build a reputation, and five minutes to destroy it. So do not take ethical risks that can ruin your reputation – and life.”
Responding to Crises – Leaders are most needed when crises occur and must rise to the occasion.
One of the people he interviews in the book is Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg (z”l), who sadly passed away erev Rosh Hashanah.
Rubenstein characterizes her extraordinary intellect (near the top of her class at both Harvard and Columbia Law Schools), her persistence in fighting for her causes, and her ability to work with (and charm) those who have disagreed with her, such as her close friend, the late Justice Antonin Scalia.
Rubenstein writes, “She found a way to be a leader who was unique within the court – her public appearances and rock-star persona clearly affected public opinion on many of her key issues. And the court, while a creation of legal precedent and scholarship, does reflect the views of this 'tenth justice' – public opinion.”
A few Ruth Bader Ginsburg stories and quotes:
She went to Cornell University in the 1950s where they had a 4:1 ratio of men to women. “It was the place where parents wanted to send their daughters. If you could not find your man at Cornell, you were hopeless.”
On her wedding day, prior to the start of the ceremony being held in her soon-to-be mother-in-law’s home, her mother-in-law said, “Dear, I’d like to tell you the secret of a happy marriage. Every now and then it helps to be a little deaf.”
"I tell law students… if you are going to be a lawyer and just practice your profession, you have a skill, very much like a plumber. But if you want to be a true professional, you will do something outside yourself…something that makes life a little better for people less fortunate than you."
Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was truly a heroic figure and a champion for justice and equality. She said, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you." That is the essence of what leadership is all about.
As we approach Yom Kippur starting Sunday evening, a time when we pause and reflect on the year past, think about the leader you are. Now, think about the leader you want to be.
We need more people to step forward. Speak out and take action. Share their insights and wisdom. Stand up for what they believe in. Serve on boards and committees. Guide the future. And truly make a difference in our Jewish community and beyond. Be a leader in 5781!
G’mar chatimah tovah – may we all be sealed for a good year -- and Shabbat shalom. 
Marc N. Blattner
President and CEO


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