What makes a leader? (NFTY Convention Post 2)


Leadership is an interesting thing.

I mentioned in the last post that I was a part of the national convention for my youth group, NFTY.

While there, I attended multiple workshops on social justice, and also on leadership—specifically, what it takes to step up, and what it means to be a leader once you’re there.

In my region, we have an extensive elections process for those who want to be on the leadership teams in NFTY.

In other regions, the process can be more or less arduous, but no less legitimate.

And it got me thinking. Because leadership can be strange—sometimes, the true leaders in a community are the ones who have never been anywhere near an official title. Sometimes they are, in fact, the elected officials. But they are always there. Which raises the question: What is it that separates a leader from someone who isn’t?

I think that there are many, many different types of leaders.

The first is the obvious. The ones who walk into a room and immediately take charge, who have enough confidence to stand up and declare “I want to be a leader!” These are the ones who will be elected to some position sooner or later, and even if they aren’t, they will probably serve on a committee before they leave the organization. People are drawn to them. They know it.

The second is considerably more subtle. The people who never run for a position, who never state that they want any type of power. These are the people with quiet strength, who say little, but when they do speak up, it means something. These are the people to whom everyone looks, but perhaps the rest of the group is not actually aware of that.


Both types of leaders are valid, and there are a hundred more types in between.

The question is… What makes a leader who and what they are?

Is it confidence? Is it charisma, the ability to hold the attention of everyone in the room? Is it simply intelligence, the power of a high IQ and good ideas?

Is it the ability to take a loss?

I attended a workshop on how to select the leaders, from within a community.

It turns out, there are many different ways to do that, and no system is perfect.

For some groups, the system is self-selective. The leaders step up, they form a little interconnected community, and they go from there, somehow being perfectly functional. Some people do it through nominations. My group does some sort of combination thereof.

But we learned about another group, Netzer Olami, which is our umbrella organization (you might call it a parent organization). For them, everyone is a leader, from the day they first join the organization, until they are eighteen and they age out. Older kids are in charge of the younger kids, and younger kids are in charge of themselves. They are groups, they are committees, run entirely by themselves and by each other.

And it works.

I don’t know what the most important trait is that a leader has to have. I don’t know what the best way is to select a leader.

What I do know is that everyone has the potential to be one.

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