Bootcamps and Other Unexpected Opportunities for Personal Growth

by John Lewsen, February 28, 2024

When I took on the role of Solel’s President, I did not fully appreciate the wealth of resources and learning opportunities that awaited me. I knew that together with the Board I was taking on fiduciary and strategic responsibilities. In my previous blog, I focused on the structure of Solel’s Board. This month I plan to briefly share a few snippets of the wisdom and ideas that I have been mulling over since participating in the recent half-day “Bootcamp” online training session run by the Union of Reform Judaism (URJ).

Until now, I had never thought of the governance role as three distinctive activities: fiduciary, strategic and generative. I understood our fiduciary role that focuses on whether we are taking appropriate care of the assets of our congregation. And in doing this, Board members devote time and focus on looking at facts, budgets, risks, controls, financial information, and reports. I also understood the need for a strategic focus that considers the long-term or overall aims of our Jewish community, and in doing so, how we plan to bridge the gap between what we are now, and where we want to be. However, the notion of a distinctive generative governance role was an “Ahah” moment for me.

Generative governance involves looking for different opportunities and innovations for our members and our community. It allows for more creative, but less solution-oriented conversations with our rabbi, educator, professional staff, committees, and working groups — and of course all of you, our Solel members. In these interactions, we are not constrained by the current realities. Instead, we are open to brainstorming and other imaginative interactions designed to generate ideas and tap into the creativity of our community. It allows us the chance to try different solutions, with the understanding that some will work well, and some less so.

As I look back on my last few years since joining Solel’s Executive, I realize I have been involved with numerous interesting, complex and at times challenging situations. And I have aimed for an adaptive leadership style that taps into the expertise and ideas of Solel members and our wider Reform Jewish network of leaders. As well, talking to and listening to fellow congregants and URJ leadership participants from across North America has brought meaning and added interest to the role.

This year, for the first time, the URJ opened its annual “Bootcamp” to general board members and emerging leaders. I am hoping that next year Solel will have the benefit of enrolling a strong delegation of future leaders to share, enjoy, and bring back the learning from this personal growth experience.


Filed under: President's Message

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