A Conversation on Leadership with Rick Recht and Al Cohn



AL COHN: Rick not everyone had the chance to connect with you this weekend the way that I did as temporal [unclear 00:10] leadership team and everyone knows you as a Jewish rock star and everyone knows you for your ability to facilitate leadership workshops and help with board dynamics and that side of you. And I couldn’t but help but be intrigued by some of the stuff that you just passed on to us while you were here, and I just was sort of taken by your impression and feel like you have such unique perspective as a person that travels around the country, looking at temples and sort of assisting. I just really wanted to be able to convey sort of some of your observations to people who do not have a chance to connect with you while you were at temple with us this weekend, and didn’t know if you’d mind, I don’t know, sort of [unclear 01:00] on some of the stuff that sort of took you or you witnessed or you thought that was great.

RICK RECHT: Well, the weekend was really extraordinary at a lot of lows, I mean, I have been coming to the temple for many years and I love it, it’s a warm…it feels so sweet, place…welcoming place. But there was something really different about this weekend that really stroke me in a wonderful way. I do workshops on what I call “shared leadership”, they are empowering individuals in the community to be the leaders and to stand side by side whether it’s on the beamer or in the classroom or in classrooms but to take leadership positions in the synagogue. And what I saw this weekend was pretty amazing and it started Friday night during the service with Cantor Roskin and then it progressed Saturday morning with Monica and all volunteers. So Friday night had some volunteers and then Saturday had virtually all volunteers. And what I saw was a model for shared leadership that I have almost never seen employed in the way that it is in temple manual. One thing I want to know is how unusual it is to have the situation you have right now and what a miracle I think it might be in the trajectory of the life of the temple and what I mean by that is, by not having a rabbi right now, its created no only a space for opportunities to be created but its created a psychology of a risk tolerance that is very high. And so here, let me tell you what I am talking about.

The formula for shared leadership includes; opportunity creation, identification of leaders, it includes preparing those leaders in advance of their leadership whatever they want to be doing includes supporting them side by side when they are initially leading to make sure they are successful, it includes recognizing them emphatically so that people know this person that this person stepped up and so that this person knows they are doing whatever they are doing right, and number 6 it involves follow up and I got to see all of it on Friday night, and I will break that down real quick and share with you what I saw which is, Kent Rosen is amazing at creating a welcoming high-risk tolerance one open environment. But the way she did it was by helping create opportunities for various people to be prayer leaders, or Hebrew leaders or all the different kinds of leaders then she…so that was the opportunity, she identified or help them identify themselves.

She prepared them by talking with them before the service and even immediately before the service, she made sure that they were comfortable on the beamer, she made sure I was comfortable on the beamer, she made sure to recognize all of us beautifully and emphatically. And then afterward I don’t know how she will…or when she’ll have the chance to follow up with the others but she followed up with me about my feedback.  And so what I also saw during…so she did everything, it wasn’t just her it’s a culture that I am seeing at the temple. A culture that has a high-risk tolerance when the stakes are not just okay, mistakes are welcome, celebrated, just like they are in a family say that when someone is reading and they start off with the wrong area or say the wrong word or pronounce something pronounced, pronounce something incorrectly everyone chuckles and its fun and it makes everyone feel comfortable, you know what I am talking about? And we have the stakes on Friday night and we all made some little mistakes and it was awesome and even announced them on the microphone and everyone laughed and it made everyone feel great.

Now the next day on Saturday these people have once again been…the opportunity was created for many people to participate, they were prepared to some degree and at the beginning of the service, I love this, Monika actually introduced everyone and said this is going to be improv Shabbat, I think she was just sort of making that up on the spot as [unclear 06:06] or improv Shabbat. And she said something to the effect of we might make some mistakes but that’s okay or something like that. And there were a ton of mistakes and it was awesome, everyone felt so good because ultimately it’s all about feeling it’s not all about the script. And I will just share one more thing I will stop talking for a moment.

AL COHN: It’s great

RICK RECHT: But the more scripted and experiences the lower the risk tolerances, so that means that there is a ratio…I was saying this in the workshop that I did with you and [unclear 06:40] is that when things are very scripted people are worried about making mistakes, when people worry about making mistakes and don’t make mistakes they don’t take risk, when they don’t take risk they shut off the possibility magic. Magic is the key is the key spirituality, magic is the key to the soul, magic is the group that connects the community, okay. So, if you flip back upside down and look at what’s happening right now example, is that risk tolerance is high, mistakes are welcome and celebrated which by the is a key in the management of the world’s greatest companies, okay. Just some quick example, and the spirituality and feeling and sense of connection are outstanding.

AL COHN: I’m so glad those aspects resonated with you and I feel like we sometimes get lost just forced through the trees and we don’t have a lot of feedback and your perspective is so appreciated, everyone sort of recognizes I think the authenticity of what seems to be happening and I agree with you it does feel a little bit of like we’ve…I mean, it’s sort of blessing in disguise I don’t know we would have been intentionally chosen this point for ourselves, but things seem to be unraveling, unraveling in a good direction. One of the questions I was going to ask you that I thought was also really prude and relevant was how we can ensure that what we got going on right now continues when we get our senior rabbi and how we should approach a senior rabbi with those kinds of expectations or interest in keeping the ball rolling as it is.

RICK RECHT: Absolutely, so a few things, one is something I share often which is that stars in the Jewish world are those who make others the stars. Great leaders are those who make others great leaders, to shine the spotlight to elevate others around them and who are ultimately recognized as great leaders not for dominating the arena but for creating space, opportunity, identifying people, recognizing people, celebrating people, that’s a wonderful thing I see that happening right now. And when you talk about your future rabbi, I am also thinking about your future leaders in every area of the temple. You can as well translate what I am about to say it to your rabbi particular but I will just say it really could apply to anyone in the temple which is, one I think it’s always a great idea to create transparent and clear directive, clear expectations, people always want to size to the occasion but they need to know what the occasion is, they need to know where the target is if they are going to hit the target. And I think one of the key targets here is letting your leadership know that they are truly doing their job and doing their job really well when they teach others to do their job. When they celebrate and share a spotlight and create the space, we are so ready to share the spotlight on others to step up and help and participate…not just watching and being interactive but literally leaning side by side with them. I think for the future rabbi, Kent Roskin already know this and really for everyone, now I am talking teachers, I am talking teen assistance, I am talking to everyone at temple. I think the more that message the more you continue and will continue cultivating a culture of shared leadership. I think you are creating an incredible maybe unprecedented foundation, I haven’t seen anything quite like this, I am sure your temple hasn’t seen anything quite like this which is that you are presently training literally hundreds of people to be leaders which is ultimately building muscles, is building their leadership muscles like the actual skills, its building their empathy muscles because now they know what it feels like to be standing on the beamer looking out, in front of the classroom looking out, okay. It is building their vision muscles because you never know…it’s easy to be a critique, very easy [unclear 11:22] that’s no problem, melting in let people know how things should be but it’s much easier to be a visionary when you stood in the shoes of the leadership and everyone is getting the chance right now at temple. I think ultimately there are 2 things one is, just in summary is, including the expectation of shared leadership in the present and the future leaders.

AL COHN: Go on oh good, did I interrupt you there sorry.

RICK RECHT: No that’s okay, go ahead.

AL COHN: I was just going to say, your perspective is just so helpful as we are sort of taking steps forward with this theirs is still so much that’s happening at temple and I don’t think anyone really has exactly any like great inside intel what the next couple of months have for us but its sure it’s good to get your perspective and just sort of no one around the temple wants to hurt ourselves, patting ourselves on the back but it does certainly feel like there is some great energy there, so it’s just nice to hear it from a third party.

RICK RECHT: Well, as a third party it was awesome seeing and experiencing…is that third party I feel very welcomed and at home there.

AL COHN: Awesome

RICK RECHT: Very comfortable and the reason why is because you all are creating the space, Kent Roskin at the services I felt so comfortable, is not that I usually feel uncomfortable I usually feel pretty comfortable but I felt incredibly comfortable because everyone around me is comfortable.

AL COHN: You are welcome back anytime. We will expect you back at this point if nothing else could rail like [unclear 12:57].


AL COHN: You are awesome man, thank you so much for the feedback Rick I should appreciate it. You are a welcome addition for the weekend, we look forward to connecting with this in.

RICK RECHT: Likewise, thanks so much.

AL COHN: Awesome. Be well, thanks so much.

RICK RECHT: Thank you.

AL COHN: Take care.

Click here for the original video.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s