The Power of Generational Leadership

At NFTY Convention 2015 in Atlanta a couple of weekends ago, I watched with many past NFTY Board members as the 2015–2016 NFTY Board-Elect took the stage for the first time. Suddenly, as we began to sing Josh Nelson’s version of L’dor V’dor, a wave of nostalgia swelled within me and I finally understood the impact of generational leadership — it just happened two years after my time on NFTY Board.

Thinking back to my leadership positions in NFTY, I realize now that I never truly understood the significance of “generational leadership”. Throughout my time on regional and North American Board, we always talked about the importance of learning from our incredible predecessors, and thinking about the work our successors will do, in order to guide our vision and actions throughout the year. However, it always seemed to focus on the information, skills, or insights that were a part of our work for NFTY.

Now, nearly 2 years removed from NFTY, I am realizing the true impact of generational leadership. This concept should not only give the current holder of the leadership position the ability to understand certain skills or their role in the lifespan of a system. Generational leadership also stands to create a special and unique connection to the people who have held, and will hold, that particular position. This connection is full of fond memories, great relationships, and unforgettable experiences that transcend the daily work of NFTY leadership.

Rooted in Jewish text, NFTYites often discuss generational leadership through the relationship between Moses and Joshua. In Numbers 27: 18–23, Moses “laid his hands” upon Joshua and essentially bestowed upon him more responsibilities to help their community. Later in the Torah, when God prohibits Moses from entering the Promised Land, we know that Moses fully passes his leadership position and wisdom to Joshua so that the Israelites have a new leader. While it is natural to then follow Joshua’s progression into his new leadership position, it is important to also think about this leadership transition through Moses’s viewpoint: Is he grateful to pass along his leadership position? Does he fully trust Joshua to carry on the journey? Has he prepared Joshua well enough to guide the Israelites on his own?

While I don’t know all of these answers, I hope that Moses felt grateful to provide someone else with the opportunity to guide the Israelites. I hope that Moses trusted Joshua. And I hope that Moses felt proud that he provided Joshua with not only a leadership position, wisdom, and skills, but also with the inspiration to fulfill his duties and thrive.

As I continue to watch NFTY and the Reform Movement evolve and grow, I constantly think about all of the initiatives and projects I didn’t have the time, resources, or knowledge to complete during my time on NFTY Board. And just when I get frustrated or filled with regret, I remember that there are currently passionate and capable leaders that are continuing the work that I continued from my own predecessors. Somehow, my work serves as a building ground for the future leaders in our movement. And seeing them continue this holy work reconnects me back to incredible experiences and memories in NFTY that I’ll remember for the rest of my life.

And that’s the true power of generational leadership.

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Originally published at evanltraylor.wordpress.com on February 26, 2015.

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