Jumping into Lake You

I blogged a couple of weeks ago, here, about the professional development our faculty was engaging in over the summer – featuring a Summer Book Club.  I alluded at the time, to my own personal professional development, and I wanted to share that here.

It actually goes back more than a few years.

I have mentioned frequently in prior blog posts and in my doctoral dissertation, the impact the Day School Leadership Training Institute (DSLTI) has had on me.  (Click here for the most relevant one.)  One benefit to being an alum of the program is access to annual retreats where we have opportunities to collaborate, connect, reflect and grow. One such retreat took place almost four years ago and it was the most outside the box retreat I have ever participated in – and among the most impactful.

The theme of the retreat was “leadership presence”.  Sean Kavanagh, CEO of the Ariel Group, defines “leadership presence” as, “The ability to connect with the thoughts and feelings of others, in order to motivate and inspire them to achieve a desired outcome.”

Sounds like a pretty important ability for a head of school to have!

The methodology for the retreat included performing drama exercises and receiving acting coaching.  Now, anyone who knows me knows that “Jon does not role play” – it is the farthest possible activity outside my normal comfort zone.  But for some reason, perhaps peer pressure, the safety of this particular professional learning network, the alignment of the stars, who knows, for this particular retreat, I allowed myself to be pushed.

What I came away with was a powerful understanding of my own leadership presence and the work I needed and wanted to do to in order to more fully develop it.  It impacted things as seemingly benign as strategic sartorial decisions to thinking more carefully about the emotional impact of my words, actions, body language, etc.  My most important takeaway from that retreat was the knowledge that I would be a more successful leader if I prepared and approached meetings, conversations, interactions, etc. by being less concerned about what I would say and more concerned about how I wanted people to feel.  Studies have shown that people remember a fraction of what they hear…but they do remember how they felt.

This has really stuck with me over the years.

I don’t always remember to make use of it and I have a ways to go in improving my leadership presence.  But when I do, it almost always makes a positive contribution to my practice.  And that is why I was so pleased that one of my DSLTI mentors, Jane Taubenfeld Cohen, recommended a book for me to read this summer on this exact topic!

And due to the power of Twitter and Facebook, this recommendation multiplied and evolved into a true 21st century virtual Book Club that will culminate in a webinar featuring the book’s author!

So, this summer, I will be exploring my leadership presence by reading…

From author Kristi Hedges‘ website:

Presence: You know it when you see it, but what exactly is it? And how can a person get more of it?

Everyone recognizes leaders with “presence.” They stand out for their seemingly innate ability to command attention and inspire commitment. But what is this secret quality they exude, exactly?

Executive and CEO coach Kristi Hedges demystifies this elusive trait, revealing that presence is the intersection of outward influencing skills and internal mental conditioning. Using her I-Presence™ model, the author shows how anyone – regardless of position or personality — can strengthen their impact. Readers will learn how to build trust as the foundation for leadership, eschew perfectionism for authenticity, banish limiting thoughts and behaviors, and galvanize their team through visionary, inspiring communications.

Stellar technical knowledge, a strong work ethic, excellent presentation skills—none of these tangible traits puts people on the career fast track as readily as a compelling presence. Filled with profiles of leaders with powerful presence and the latest neuroleadership research translated into actionable habits, this authoritative guide puts a little-understood, but potentially game-changing, tool within everyone’s reach.

I look forward to sharing my reflections as I make my way through the book and very much look forward to our late-summer DSLTI & Friends Book Club webinar.  I’ve got my flip flops on and a good summer read…life is pretty good.


About Jon Mitzmacher

Dr. Jon Mitzmacher is the Head of Galinsky Academy [which includes the DuBow Preschool, the Martin J. Gottlieb Day School (a K-8 Schechter), the Bernard and Alice Selevan Religious School, and Makom Hebrew High] located in Jacksonville, FL, and part of the Jacksonville Jewish Center. He is the Executive Director Designate of the Schechter Day School Network. Jon has worked in all aspects of Jewish Education from camping to congregations and everything in between.
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