LDI 2020 - Leadership - What it Takes by Alan Pressman
Sometimes a Leader isn’t born like Hannibal or Alexander the Great. Sometimes a Leader is just one of the pack who must rise to the occasion. I’m not comparing myself to two of the greatest generals in history. Me, I’m just a guy who was asked to lead by one of the great leaders in my Shul, Orangetown Jewish Center.
One day about 7 years ago Bart Bookman, our then-Men’s Club President, asked Javier Rosenzwaig and I to consider being co-Presidents. We were both working, had younger kids and he felt that our chemistry of working together was great. How can you go wrong working with a great friend?
The qualities needed for leadership are not too special. You must know when to speak and when to listen. If I can quote Gary Katz from Western Region, “Your expectations cannot be too high.” If they are, they will never be reached. If they are “too low.” you will be ineffective and not accomplish much either. So remember not to set the bar too high or too low.
But the most important thing that I learned from Dr. Katz was called the Zone of Proximal Development. That is, do not smother your people. If you micro-manage, they will not be able to grow and make their own decisions. But on the same thought, you must manage just enough to nudge them in the proper direction, so they will not get sidetracked and again the tasks will not be achieved. A perfect example:
Jay Steinmetz from MetroNY taught us that you must know what you need and be organized. If you are making a PB&J sandwich, you need the type of bread, the utensils, the plate, the type of butter (peanut, almond), and the type of jelly (grape, strawberry, all fruit).
Danny Granek, also from MetroNY, pointed out something very important, that leaders give credit when credit is due, yet take responsibility for failures. What that means in leadership is give your team Kudos for a job well done but to coin Harry Truman, “The buck stops here!”
You need to be respectful of those you work with. You need to listen to everyone’s opinion and not railroad your ideas. I’ve watched Javier lead our district by getting everyone involved. He has tried to make Hudson Valley run cohesively. That is, the whole is better than the sum of its parts. We all try to support each other’s programs because a success for one is a success for all.
Following the examples of Hannibal, Alexander, Gary, Jay, Dan and Javier, I strive to be a leader half as good as any of them. So remember, Lead by example. Be organized. Give credit where credit is due and take responsibility. Be respectful and listen to others. I always say try to be interested, not interesting.
The great chemistry I referenced above is essential. Not even Moses could do the job alone. Both Javier and I are energetic, humorous (we think), likeable (again, we think), driven and organized. We complement each other’s faults and try to play well with others. If you are unable to lead by yourself, ask one of your best friends to assist you. Sometimes that is all that it takes! And don’t forget, you always need coffee. And, according to the Blitz from MetroNY, a single malt scotch doesn’t hurt!