Leaders need to think and act differently in order to chart a new course for the enterprise.
At the most recent JFNA Board Meetings, the JFNA CEO began to suggest that the upcoming Budget will confront his latest buzzwords -- disruptive change. All of us who have watched JFNA will understand my cynical (and, perhaps, unfair [but I doubt it]) belief that after 5+ years of creating the tragic environment within JFNA requiring the "need to think and act differently in order to chart a new course for the enterprise," that Jerry Silverman believes that he is just the leader to do so. And, friends, this is nuts. This is, after all, the same Jerry for whom fealty to his virtual reality has rarely been encumbered by any reference to fact.
What is there in this leadership's history that would lead anyone to believe that Silverman could possibly take us there after he has gotten us here? (Forgive the "play" upon another of Jerry's most favorite cliches.) This is the ultimate chutzpah. It is not so much tying the new calendar year to "disruptive change;" it is the belief that this team can "lead" us through the transformational change that is required; it is the lack of any acknowledgment by anyone that the same leader who wants to drive the process has delivered JFNA to this day. They say that an alcoholic cannot really start the process of deliverance from the disease until he/she admits to being one -- apparently, Jerry just doesn't get that he needs to admit his complicity in the dire straights that JFNA has reached under his leadership before he can pretend to lead a disruptive change effort....and, even then...
Boy, "disruptive change" must have sounded to Smilin' J like such a great platform on which to build the next five years but doesn't there need to be a plan...a plan which all of us might hear, debate, discuss and direct? Or is it, as have been all of the other cliches (including my favorite "let Jerry be Jerry") just another cliche -- all words signifying nothing, without the understanding or the intent to implement? Who are the "Leaders (who) need to think and act differently?" Certainly not Richard Sandler who has set a course for JFNA premised upon a return of community to the Jewish values upon which our federations have been constructed. Who needs "to think and act differently?" Hey, it's Jerry himself...and he is clearly incapable of doing so. We've seen nothing in 5+ years, my friends, to suggest that he knows anything at all about leadership, let alone change. Jerry knows it; Richard Sandler should know it. This is management by cliche...and nothing more.
In Los Angeles, Sandler and a new CEO, Jay Sanderson, led the Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles through the difficult process of disruptive change. Many things changed, most for the better even as the outcomes forced many good people to the sidelines as new leaders, lay and professional, emerged; and older leaders chose to return to the communal leadership roster. The focus of the JFGLA on youth came clear as a result of this process -- as a result of the policy decisions under Sanders' and Sanderson's leadership and with the community's embrace. Where and how will that happen at JFNA which constantly talks about, gives lip service to "change" and then does...nothing...and seems to be incapable of no more.
In the words of one Commentator, reflecting on Silverman's performance at the January Board Meeting:
"Again and again and again." Enough said. How long does the system tolerate this?