Me First Leadership: It's Not What You Think , the first book by Mike Lasday, Tel Yehudah alum, parent and current Board President, will be officially being released next week. But you can already order your copy today. Mike is our guest blogger today for the Chorsha and he explains how his understanding of leadership started back in Young Judaea:
I got my MBA at YJU.
That's a line I used to use all the time when describing how it came to be that I had become a co-CEO of a fairly large privately held company without ever having taken a single business or management class in my life.
The truth is that everything I ever needed to know about leadership in the macro sense, I learned from my years in Young Judaea in the late 70s and early 80s. My professional career was spent in a variety of leadership roles by first and foremost being a "doogma esheet," as that's how I was indoctrinated to lead.
As I moved up the proverbial corporate ladder, I was constantly praised for my "unique" and "natural" leadership abilities. Frankly, compared to my peers and iconic role models that I had known in the movement, I considered my abilities to be neither. But seemingly nobody in the "real world' could ever match the standards of those mentors of my youth.
Who knew that back in the day as we were consciously ensuring that the movement was not becoming ideologically cultish from Jewish and Zionism perspectives, that we were subconsciously being "braniswashed" with the critical foundation of how to lead?
This week, my book Me First Leadership: It's Not What You Think is being published. It is built on the framework of what I learned in the movement along with nearly a quarter of a century of experiences leading leaders in a company that itself inspired and trained over a half million young leaders during my tenure. During that journey I picked up some critical skills related to group management and facilitation that supplemented beautifully my movement foundation.
Although not aimed specifically at a Jewish audience, when I began the writing process I couldn't find a better phrase to describe the power of being a personal example than "doogma esheet." Those words are actually a part of the titles of the first two chapters. "Me First" is merely a reflection of the lessons learned so long ago that a leader's credibility is first and foremost a product of his or her own behaviors. From that foundation a unique leadership identity can be built and then, and only then working with people, can wonderfully lofty visions be achieved.
Yet a funny thing happened to me and my friends over those summers. The concept that leadership means being an example to others sunk in. When I returned home to various leadership positions as a teenager and later in college, nearly everything I did started and ended with me asking myself whether I was in fact being a "doogma eesheet." I was able to see a direct correlation between the degree to which I was leading by example and my effectiveness as a leader.
Frankly, the leadership concept of being an example to others can't be any more basic. Being a "doogma eesheet" is really about credibility and it is no earth shattering statement to suggest that effective leaders must be credible.
"Doogma eesheet" therefore must be common sense.
I wish that were true.
A few years ago, I returned to the movement as both a volunteer and a parent. In part, I did so because my dear friend David Weinstein asked me to help him as he himself returned as the TY director. But more importantly, I did so because I knew that my children being involved in YJ camps, Israel programs and other movement activities, meant that they too would be provided the foundation from which they could be successful in whatever they pursued later in life. And that doesn't even mention the powerful Jewish and Zionist identity building blocks that continue to be so incredibly wonderful in all movement activities (that would require another post altogether). Selfishly, I wanted to live a bit vicariously through them.
And I have.
I am proud of having become reengaged with the movement and with Tel Yehudah in particular. Though there continue to be tremendous challenges with reimagining the movement (let alone funding a new vision), the secret sauce is still very much there. It was that secret sauce that created the foundation for a socially awkward kid in the late 70s to build both an identity and a career.
As I walk around TY in my capacity as board president during the summer, I am struck by the familiarity of it all even thirty years after my last summer there on staff. As I interact with the chanichim and tsevet (who are all, of course, thrilled to be talking to an old guy), I can sense the secret leadership sauce already flowing through their veins. Like the thousands of alumni in the world today, this generation's young people are also unknowingly earning their MBA from YJU. It is a beautiful thing.
To learn more about Mike's book and to order a copy of Me First Leadership click here.