Your Da Man/woman
Group Size: 10-55
Estimated Time: 45 minutes
Did you download this file and do you have something to share?
This is the place!
The educational topic for Bnei Akiva this month is ideal for chevraya bet because it deals with the concept of leadership- who should be leaders?, what makes a leader?
Chevraya bet is the age group that is on the brink of actualizing these theories of leadership and once they are actively leaders, chances are, they won’t even be able to find the time to actually think about why it is they are doing what they are doing. Think about it- when was the last time you got to actually take a step back and evaluate what prompted you to become a leader?
This sicha will focus on the historical aspect of leadership. You might want to start by throwing out the following question- “who was the greatest leader who ever lived?” (Note: I think it would be much simpler and easier if you limited this sicha to Jewish leaders, but if you feel that that wouldn’t wash well with the particular group you are working with, feel free to expand the topic).
Have different chanichim stand up and present their case for whomever they have asserted that they feel the greatest leader was. At its most basic level, they must attest to why they feel this leader was the greatest ever. After all the different cases have been stated, a vote should be taken. You have just designated this individual as the greatest leader of all time. Since this sicha can go in a million different directions, it is hard to tell you exactly what to do with it, but let me try to give you some basic guidelines. If, for example, your group ends up choosing Moshe (as in Rabeinu) as the greatest leader who ever lived, you have now created a perfect opportunity to try and really delve into what we know about this personality. What was so great about him? What about him made him such an effective leader? Where was he successful, where was he less than successful? And, of course, now you can get to the tachlis of this sicha: What can we, as future leaders, do to try and emulate the great leaders of our past? What can we learn from our forefathers that we can take and translate into actions when we take on leadership roles? “Ma’aseh avot siman l’banim”, the actions of our fathers can serve as lessons to us, their children.
This sicha will focus more on the theoretical aspects of leadership in general. Let’s start out with a true scenario (I know because it happened to me!). You are interviewing to be considered for a very competitive staff position at a summer camp. You are extremely nervous but you are determined to give the best interview possible, hopefully being so charming that the interviewer will hire you on the spot! You know all the right answers, you are ready for anything. And then, out of nowhere- a whopper of a question, the answer of which will determine your acceptance: Do you consider yourself a leader or a follower?
Now, at first glance, this question does not seem tough at all- a no-brainer, really. But a smart person will hesitate before affirming themselves as a leader without a blink of the eye. A truly introspective person will have to think long and hard before answering this question because anyone who declares him/herself a leader without stopping to think about what it really means WILL NOT GET THE JOB!!!
What I would do at this point is to split the group in two- those who think that it is obvious that all people should try to be leaders and those who disagree. Let them discuss their respective cases in their groups and then organize a debate. In appropriate increments, infuse the debate with the following ideas for further thought and discussion:
- The idea of government and representation. Why is it more effective to be represented in government than for each person to represent him/herself? What would happen if each person was out for himself?
- ‘B’makom she’ein ish, tishtadel l’hiyot ish”, in a place where there are no people, strive to be a person. How does this quote from Pirkei Avot apply to our discussion?
- Diffusion of responsibility is a psychological concept that predicts that when there are many people around and something needs to be done, each person will end up assuming that the next person is getting it done and chances are, the task will never get accomplished. Do you think this is valid? How does this apply to what we are discussing? How can it be counteracted?
- What if a person does not have the typical qualities characteristic of leaders. Does this mean the person has nothing to offer? Try and think up other ways in which these people can be leaders. “Too many cooks spoil the stew (or chulent?)”. Fact or fiction?
Of course, there is no right or wrong answer to the question posed by the interviewer. Rather, there is the correct manner in which each a person would answer such a question- namely, with much forethought. For even the greatest of leaders must know when to take a step back and let someone else take over. Ultimately, a truly good leader must have a side to him/her that knows when it is appropriate to lead and when it is appropriate to sit back and be led.
Leadership Training Peulot
Obviously, the best way to teach leadership skills is by setting a good example. Being leaders yourselves, it is imperative that you serve as good role models for those who you are leading. Think about it- it is our first impulse to copy those who have come before us. If you are doing a good job, you should have nothing to worry about in terms of imparting leadership skills to the next generation of leaders.
There is no handbook for how exactly to go about training leaders. The best advice I can give you is to share your personal experiences- what worked, what didn’t, etc. Try and make a list of all the icebreakers, games, and peulot that you have had success with and have that list accessible just in case it might be needed. Obviously, this choveret is an excellent source of ideas to be used by you, the leaders. You can bring it in and show these chanichim how to use it best. You are the ones with the experience, it is your responsibility to share your wealth of knowledge with those who do not have the benefit of that experience.
There are leadership training packets available upon request from the main lishka. Just call Barry at (212) 568-1126 if you are planning a leadership shabbaton so that we can provide you with the appropriate materials. It is also possible that one of us can come out to your community to help run such a shabbaton. Good luck!
There are many different ways in which your chanichim can assume leadership roles in your community. Of course, the manner in which we have been discussing until now was in a structured snif environment. However, there are many other ways that these kids can make a difference. Here are some suggestions:
- Become involved in the Israel Club at your
school. If your school doesn’t have one,
start one! Distribute news from
- Take on a specific cause and make it your cause! There so much work that needs to be done- claim some for yourself. For example, the freeing of the Israeli MIAs or getting Jonathon Pollard out of prison. Organize letter writing campaigns and awareness days. Find a cause and make it yours.
- If you are the scholarly type, organize interesting speakers who can lecture on relevant topics in your shul, school, etc. This is also a good way to…
- Fundraise! If there is any interest in this, we have a whole booklet that was created to provide many interesting and creative ideas and ways to fundraise. I guess you can say it puts the “fun” back into fundraising!