Leadership offers amazing opportunities. As a leader, you can advocate for ideas and rights, advance the goals of an organization, and make a difference in peoples’ lives. It’s also a chance to grow and broaden your horizons. Of course, leaders gain personal fulfillment for a job well done. Additionally, leaders often receive accolades and kavod.
This weeks’ Torah portion, Eikev (Deuteronomy 7:12-11:25), speaks of this moment of accomplishment—when we are in the “heady glow of success”. Eikev reminds us that we are not alone in our successes. Moses cautions the Israelites to avoid the haughty belief that their own power, skills, and might caused them to succeed. The Israelites are reminded of God’s role in their successes. I believe that is it equally important to recognize the role of others in these moments.
Moses’ statement is a warning about smugness and self-righteousness. Material successes can elicit pride and boastfulness. We know these are undesirable traits. But for most of us, when we’re standing in the limelight, it’s easy to forget those who helped us ascend the steps to the top.
Often, I hear sisterhood women say, “It’s faster for me to do it by myself” or “I work better alone.” This is understandable. We juggle many roles in our lives. We are pressed for time and just want to contribute in the easiest way. However, we are never really alone when we work or volunteer. Who we are and what we accomplish are products of a myriad of elements—our learned teachers, life experiences, the support given by mentors, family, and friends, and even a little luck. We never stand alone. We stand on the shoulders of those who came before us. Recognizing and acknowledging that is a responsibility we must embrace as a crucial part of leadership.
Two years ago, at a WRJ Board meeting, several past presidents honored long-time and recently deceased NFTS Executive Director Eleanor (Ellie) Schwartz. It was clear from their stories and antidotes that Ellie was an incredible teacher and mentor. In many instances, it wasn’t what she had done, but how she took the time to model leadership. No doubt, her skills were important. But her quiet actions and her “look” said as much as her words or accomplishments. Through her leadership and individual mentoring, she had lifted each one of these women to a higher place. I didn’t know Ellie personally, but it was easy to see what kind of leader she was.
Often, it is only after someone is gone that we realize their impact on our lives and our successes. This certainly is true in my life. There are so many teachers and leaders I owe a huge
debt of gratitude for making me the person I am and allowing me to succeed in various leadership roles.
Eikev teaches us that it takes a community to prosper. We can forge ahead with vigor, but if we don’t bring along our members, women’s groups, and communities, we will be moving ahead alone. If we take the opportunity to collaborate with others, it will be worth the effort. Often the journey is just as important than the task we accomplish. If it takes a little longer to get there—so be it.
Here’s the bottom line—when the moment is right, pause and acknowledge others that helped you succeed. It’s crucial to let others be a part of that moment and to make clear that you did not accomplish the task or project alone. As a leader, there is nothing more important than letting others share your moment.
The Priestly Benediction my rabbi gives every Friday night talks about God’s light shining upon us. When you are fortunate enough to have that kind of moment, let others share in the glow. Spread the warmth! Work hard to thank and acknowledge those who have made you who you are. That, my sisters, is the most remarkable leadership skill of all.
Sherri Feuer is the current WRJ Vice President of Affiliate Services. She is a past president of Temple Israel Sisterhood in Minneapolis, MN, as well as a Temple Israel congregational past president. She is also a WRJ Midwest District past president.