I had the distinct joy yesterday of being at a NFTY event. The Pennsylvania Area Region held its Leadership Training Institute, and I had the chance to attend, along with our synagogue’s Director of Youth Programs and 3 of our teen leaders. I’ve been deeply involved with NFTY for decades–first as a participant and later as an advisor and rabbi. I even worked for the Youth Division of the Reform Movement at 2 different points in my career. Yesterday was no different in that it inspired me, reminded me of my own experience as a Jewish teen, and helped to reframe my own thinking about Jewish leadership.
In one workshop I sat in on, about Public Speaking, the following video was shown:
It’s a brilliant video. It makes a lot of points without overly describing those points–a lesson I think many of us can learn. It uses humor. And it pokes fun of what successful presentation looks like, while also pointing out what is effective public speaking.
It’s a great lesson in how we teach–and a reminder in making sure we have something to teach, beneath the presentation itself. It’s important to know how we are presenting learning, but it’s even more important to know what we want that learning to be.
What do we want our learners to come away with?
What do we want them to remember?
What do we want them to do with that?
As the Director of Youth Programs and I took the kids home, we facilitated a conversation about the day. And what the kids said was amazing–on several levels. They got it and were able to articulate it.
At one point in the conversation, one of the teens said something about part of leadership being getting others to act. I was reminded of one of my favorite leadership lessons. That of the First Follower. This idea teaches that as much as the leader is important, it is really the first person to follow that leader who has the greatest authority. It’s counterintuitive, but true. Watch:
It’s important to know how to get others to follow. But it’s also important to inspire others by being the first person to do the action. Both roles are important–either role is arguably more important.
As we enter this school year and this Jewish year, I wonder who our leaders will be. And who will be the first to follow. There are so many lessons to teach, so many lessons to learn–how do we figure out how to balance it all?