June 23, 2024
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June 23, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Those we assume are best suited for leadership are often, in fact, best suited. However, unexpected successful leaders are just as common. Many out there have long lists of accomplishments, and yet fail when it comes to leading. Why? It’s not always about what we do, but our motivation for doing so. A highly successful business person with the skills and knowledge to make loads of money can falter when given the responsibility to motivate others toward success. The desire to make money does not turn into leadership; understanding, respecting others and being selfless does.

The Torat Ahava Chesed Organization (TACO, for short), was looking for a new programming director. The job itself was easy to understand: create, organize and carry out events meant to raise money for TACO and to bring awareness to their organization. Mayaan Karkowsky, the general director of TACO, was placed in charge of the search, and she asked the executive director, Shira Krustofsky, to help her find a new director of programming. To get the ball moving, Shira and Maayan placed a few advertisements on local job boards and called people who might be able to help.

After a few weeks of advertising, making phone calls and sending emails, Shira and Maayan had three potential candidates for the job. Two of the candidates responded to the job posting and sent in impressive resumes. The third candidate was a woman named Hila Hooper who was recommended by someone the TACO leadership trusted. However, Hila did not have the same experience as the other candidates, so Shira and Maayan did not take her as seriously.

Eventually, Hila was invited for an interview with the TACO team (yes, it was on a Tuesday). However, Shira and Maayan only invited her in as a courtesy; they did not expect Hila to have any chance of earning the job. Therefore, it was to Shira and Maayan’s great surprise to see how well Hila handled herself. She spoke well, had good ideas, and seemed to have a good sense of what it would take to succeed as TACO’s programming director. Despite her merits, there was still little chance Hila would come out on top.

Near the end of the interview, Hila stepped out for a moment to use the restroom. As she closed the door on her way out, Maayan turned to Shira. “Not bad, eh? I guess this was a good recommendation. Maybe we can find a lower-level position in the organization to offer Hila, and we can train her.” Shira agreed; “I think that’s a great idea.” However, this idea did not last long. After Hila returned, Shira asked two more questions, which Hila answered properly. Then, Mayaan asked her one last question. “So is there anything else you’d like to share about yourself before we call it a day?” Hila thought for a second. “Yes; I do. When my great-grandfather passed away, I cried a little bit, and when my cat died, I did not cry at all.”

This comment was followed by 10 seconds of awkward silence, after which Maayan stood up, quickly ushered Hila toward the elevator, and wished her well. Upon returning, Shira looked at Maayan with a stunned look on her face. “Did I hear that correctly? My ears aren’t broken, are they?” Maayan shook her head. “Nope, you heard her right; a little crying for great-grandpa, no crying for Garfield. Am I glad I asked that question! Now I know never to hire her for anything!”

After the process was completed, a new programming director was hired, and no, it was not Hila. However, the new director, Dina Diamond, did not last long in her position. After a few weeks had passed, those working for Dina had numerous complaints about her leadership. Dina was too caught up in promoting (showing off) the chesed events to the point that chesed was no longer the main focus. She spent hours combing through the photos to choose the exact right ones to post on social media, pushing all the “real” work to her employees. Additionally, Dina had spent way too much money on the first event, paying for a promotional video of their charity car wash, which included the use of three drones and an original song by Mordechai Shapiro. She also served sushi and had a carving station at the event because “you can’t have chesed without glatt kosher gala catering!” That was it for Dina.

Unfortunately (actually, fortunately) for TACO, their second choice, Eitan Kook, was no longer available. He had taken a job at the local Jewish newspaper as the Bat Mitzvah Chesed Projects editor. His job was to find out the best chesed projects being done by girls to honor their bat mitzvot. He had approached the paper with this idea because “it doesn’t count as chesed unless everyone knows about it!” Like Dina, he spent hours and hours choosing the perfect pics of the projects for all social media platforms, and ended up being fired for wasting too much time on the photos.

Now, Shira and Mayaan had a choice to make. Should they start searching for a new candidate (which was such a pain the first time) or call Hila in? They really wanted to give Hila a chance, but that last thing she said really creeped them out. “You know what?” said Shira, “let’s call Hila in and ask her what she meant. Maybe that will help us make our decision.” So, that’s exactly what they did. Maayan emailed Hila to see if she was still interested in “exploring the possibility of the director or programming position.” Hila responded that she definitely was interested, so they set up another meeting.

When Hila arrived on the day of the meeting, she was immediately ushered into Maayan’s office. “Let’s cut straight to it,” began Maayan, “can you please explain that thing you said about crying, your great-grandfather, and your cat?” Hila smiled. “Oh yeah. On the way home I was thinking I should have explained that to you. To me, the key to kindness is selflessness. Anybody can do an act of kindness; an act is just an act. But it takes something else to be a true person of kindness. A person of kindness is constantly on the lookout for others, a person of kindness prefers to keep his or her chesed quiet, and most importantly, a person of kindness never stops being kind. This last point is the key to leadership. True leaders care about the people they are guiding, always looking out for each person’s best interests. The example of my great-grandfather and cat might seem weird, but they were the first examples of this that came to my mind. My great-grandfather lived a wonderful life, so his death was much sadder for us than it was for him. For that reason, I didn’t cry much; I was thinking about him. Same for my cat. Garfield was old and sick and in pain when he died. I knew he needed to move on, so I wasn’t sad for him. I was for myself, but I didn’t cry because I was thinking of him.

Hila was hired on the spot.

At the start of the parsha, we are told that Avraham cried over Sarah’s death. However, the letter “kaf” in the word for “crying“ is small. This small letter signifies that Sarah had nothing to be punished for in her life (20 is the age in which Jewish tradition introduces punishment for sins). This teaches us that the great leader and kindness warrior Avraham Avinu did not think of himself when mourning Sarah. Instead, he was thinking of Sarah’s amazing life, which minimized his sadness. This selflessness was what made Avraham who he was. We should all try to follow Avraham’s example, doing things for others without thinking about ourselves.

By Yair Daar

 

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