Getting off to a Great Start


Welcome to your presidency! You have the gavel. Now what?

Management Consultant John Maxwell argues that there are five levels of leadership that leaders must understand to increase their effectiveness. In an upcoming training and Leadership Bite video, we explore the first three levels.

Level 1: Position

Maxwell writes, “People will only follow them within the stated boundaries of their authority/position.” As synagogue presidents, you have been nominated and elected. Mazel Tov. Now you will need to get to work on the other levels.

Level 2: Permission

Maxwell writes, “At this level leadership is influence.” Our experience has taught us that most boards spend little time with “onboarding” new leaders or team building for the group. Few have an annual retreat. They may know little about each other’s strengths and preferences or the goals of the organization.

How do we get permission in such an environment? We encourage you to think of the different types of personalities around the table. Who are the introverts? Who are the extroverts? You should reflect on the roles that people play. Who are the visionaries and creators? Who are the detail fact checkers and monitors? How can you design a meeting experience that will engage the various personality differences and strengths of your officers and the larger board?

Level 3: Production

Maxwell writes, “Good leaders always make things happen. They get results. Not only are they productive individually, but they also are able to help the team produce.”

Our experience has shown us that most board have no written goals for their board leadership or for the congregation. Without written agreements, it is hard to welcome the feedback of team members. Without a commitment to goals it is hard to hold people accountable.

Looking ahead

Level 4: People Development

In Level 4, leaders invest their time, energy, money, and thinking into growing others as leaders. We believe you need to build teamwork on the board. We believe board teams need shared expectations, share goals and shared accountability. If they have these, they will begin to perform better. Leaders need to “role model the change they seek.” When they show they know how to use the talents of their members, it is much easier to recruit and develop a deeper bench of volunteers.

Level 5: The Pinnacle

“The individuals who reach Level 5 lead so well for so long that they create a legacy of leadership in the organization they serve.”

In synagogues this means building “institutional memory” with rabbis, executive directors, staff, officers, board members, past presidents, and the larger leadership community. When you build such a leadership community, it will be possible to engage future leaders at all levels.

Related Blog Posts