Your Compass Has Been There: Thoughts about Leadership and Friendship
A friend texted me over the weekend, “I am sure you are ridiculously crazy but I just wanted to say I’m thinking about you. Pretty sure ‘Pandemic Management’ wasn’t in your JCC CEO job description initially.”
Immersed with my “Quarenteam” (coined by our Chief Experience Officer’s clever son), it is clear that this is the only work to do at this time. Like others, we are watching the news change minute to minute, feeling the weight of the pandemic intensify in real time, and making decision after decision with values as our guide. We are in communication with JCCs across the country and our close network of Jewish agencies, joining Zoom meetings to learn from both experts and colleagues, and sharing updates at rapid pace. This heavy lift is happening everywhere.
The unfamiliar and uncertain can create upset and panic—a challenge for any leader, regardless of tenure. Through the Leading Edge CEO OnBoarding program, my cohort has been learning about adaptive leadership. When the topic was introduced at our first gathering last fall, we had no idea the lessons would be applicable in such a real way and so soon. One of the key tenets, that leaders are relied upon for “protection, direction and order,” has proved a guiding force and has brought a sense of calm to the agency during a time that is still hard to comprehend.
As my friend pointed out, I was not prepared for the type of work that has consumed these past few weeks. And I’ve questioned plenty— Am I making the right decisions? Am I caring best for those who need support? Are we fulfilling our mission in this new reality?
During a check-in with my professional coach last week, we unpacked all of this and more. She said something that has stuck with me, “Your compass has been there.”
The first decisions we made were focused on caring for our community. We suspended program fee charges immediately to help give our families peace of mind in the face of income disruption. We confirmed to all staff that no one would be without health insurance during the closure. We established an employee emergency relief fund. We are communicating with transparency and compassion to staff, families and the community to which we are deeply committed.
It was clear from day one what needed to be done and I am incredibly proud of our agency and our staff for executing in such inspired, kind and meaningful ways. I am grateful for the support of JCC Association in their leadership for the JCC movement. I am inspired by the compassion of funders who invest in and care about our work. I am humbled by the Jewish United Fund/Jewish Federation of Chicago in their dedication and support of Jewish Chicago.
In the Passover story, the Jewish people had little time to pack up and leave the only life they had ever known. Moses’ sister, Miriam, a leader in her own right, called on the women to bring their instruments. She was able to look beyond the immediate to a time when the Jewish people would not only realize freedom, but sing and dance in their new land. As we sit around the Passover table this year as individuals, families and Zoom friends, know that many are dedicated to the richness in Jewish life both now and when we are together again.
From our JCC family to yours, a very happy and peaceful holiday.
President & CEO