Learn these four leadership skills at a Hebrew High

English: Ronald A. Heifetz on 29 March 2010 du...

Ronald A. Heifetz: “Leadership in times of crisis”   How can you make this connection for #Jteens?

A blog I read in the Harvard Business Review mentioned all the bad habits that accrue from being part of a hierarchical and bureaucratic school system.

Coleman writes:   “Our entire education system, from elementary school to graduate school, is poorly constructed to teach young people leadership. Schools do many things well, but they often cultivate habits that can be detrimental to future leaders. Given that most of us spend 13-20 years in educational institutions, those habits can be hard to break.”

Of course, I immediately thought about how, in a community Hebrew high setting, we develop future leaders.

Mostly, we run contrary to most of the details the author wrote about.

Let’s explore four of them here, with the bad habit taught listed first, then very brief examples of how these leadership habits might be experienced differently in a Hebrew High setting:

1. Schools have an emphasis on hierarchy. Examples given are: “Teacher in front of the classroom” syndrome and priorities given to class rankings, class standings, etc. 

Teachers are often called by their first names, and when asked, share personal insights. Teachers are more often the facilitator of learning rather than the expert in a subject area.

Class rank? Often doesn’t exist in a school where some classes consist of multiple grades, with mentoring going on between students.  Coleman says it best:  “Leadership is an activity, not a position,  a distinction explored deeply by Ron Heifetz in Leadership Without Easy Answers. “

2. Schools generally teach that there are right vs. wrong answers. 

Courses in Hebrew high schools are often discussion based, where critical thinking skills are necessary. There are rarely right or wrong answers. Students delve into complex situations like Mid-Eastern politics or ethical issues, where multiple vantage and view points need to be considered.

3. Schools don’t encourage or deal well with failures.

Yet, we know that it’s precisely the activity of trying, and trying again that is part of many leaders’ accomplishments (Lincoln, Einstein, Steve Jobs, etc.).  Students who experience leadership classes or work on programming for the school deal with failure, problem-solving, and work to rectify difficult challenges presented by the student body: lack of motivation, time, interest, etc.

4. Most school reinforce the “serve-yourself’- over-others” attitude by the emphasis on individual test scores, grades, GPA’s, etc. 

The very nature of a school oriented around Jewish values is not only are you learning about core altruistic values, but you are acting upon them through school programming.

I know I’ve created a very generalized portrait of a Hebrew high experience.  All schools differ and their goals are not the same. However, in a school that develops future leaders, the examples I listed would be very typical.

So, interested in building a leader? Becoming one? The shortest route might be to head over to your local Hebrew high and sign up.

Photo credit: Wikipedia

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About Ruth Schapira

I am a Jewish Educator of teens, interested in changing paradigms of Jewish high school education, incorporating strategic and creative initiatives and collaboration with like-minded organizations. Interested in creating new educational opportunities for Jewish teens using best practices and networking tools. View all posts by Ruth Schapira

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