Posts Tagged 'Kohen'

Beyond Imposter Syndrome : A New Model of Leadership

What is Imposter Syndrome?

First described by psychologists Suzanne Imes, PhD, and Pauline Rose Clance, PhD, in the 1970s, impostor phenomenon occurs among high achievers who are unable to internalize and accept their success. They often attribute their accomplishments to luck rather than to ability, and fear that others will eventually unmask them as a fraud.

Though the impostor phenomenon isn’t an official diagnosis listed in the DSM, psychologists and others acknowledge that it is a very real and specific form of intellectual self-doubt. Impostor feelings are generally accompanied by anxiety and, often, depression. By definition, most people with impostor feelings suffer in silence, says Imes, a clinical psychologist in private practice in Georgia. “Most people don’t talk about it. Part of the experience is that they’re afraid they’re going to be found out,” she says. Yet the experience is not uncommon, she adds. With effort, you can stop feeling like a fraud and learn to enjoy your accomplishments.

I was thinking about imposter syndrome when reading Shmini, this week’s Torah portion. On the eighth day, following the seven days of their inauguration, Aaron and his sons begin to officiate as kohanim (priests); a fire issues forth from God to consume the offerings on the altar, and the divine presence comes to dwell in the Sanctuary. Who were Aaron and his sons to be offering sacrifices? Did they feel like imposters? And if they did not feel that way before when it worked, how would anyone not fear of being discovered as imposters after the death of Nadav and Avihu, when their “strange fire” does not work. The juxtoposition of their inauguration and the death of these “imposters” makes you think that this hesitation was hardwired into the role of the kohanim.

I was thinking about this when reading Stop Telling Women They Have Imposter Syndrome in the Harvard Business Review. It turns out that “Imposter syndrome,” or doubting your abilities and feeling like a fraud at work, is a diagnosis often given to women. But the fact that it’s considered a diagnosis at all is problematic. The concept, whose development in the ‘70s excluded the effects of systemic racism, classism, xenophobia, and other biases, took a fairly universal feeling of discomfort, second-guessing, and mild anxiety in the workplace and pathologized it, especially for women. The answer to overcoming imposter syndrome is not to fix individuals, but to create an environment that fosters a number of different leadership styles and where diversity of racial, ethnic, and gender identities is viewed as just as professional as the current model.

What of the implications of this for our understanding of Jewish communal leadership? The creation of Yavneh represented the shift away from the Kohen model of leadership to the Rabbinic enterprise. One cannot help but think that we are in a similar moment of shifting away from the Rabbinic model of leadership. What will be next? Surely, we need to support individuals who stand up to lead our community to get over their Imposter Syndrome. But for this shift to happen, fixing the individuals is not the answer. We need to create an environment that fosters a number of different leadership styles and lift up the diversity of racial, ethnic, and gender identities. We need to expand our notions of holy leadership for everyone to share their authentic offerings without getting burned.

Heroic Breastplate

There is so much heaviness in the world right now. I really just wanted to think about something positive and protective. In Tetzave this week’s Torah portion God instructed Moshe to make sacral vestments for Aaron: a breastpiece (the Hoshen), the Ephod, a robe, a gold frontlet inscribed “holy to the Lord,” a fringed tunic, a headdress, a sash, and linen breeches. The Hoshen is particularly ornate with its rows of stones. There we read:

Set in it mounted stones, in four rows of stones. The first row shall be a row of carnelian, chrysolite, and emerald; the second row: a turquoise, a sapphire, and an amethyst; the third row: a jacinth, an agate, and a crystal; and the fourth row: a beryl, a lapis lazuli, and a jasper. They shall be framed with gold in their mountings. The stones shall correspond [in number] to the names of the sons of Israel: twelve, corresponding to their names. They shall be engraved like seals, each with its name, for the twelve tribes. (Exodus 28: 17-21)

This sacred breastplate was worn by the High Priest. It has a number of names. It is called the efod, the Hoshen Mishpat- the breastplate of judgment, and the Urim and Thummim. With all of its splendor and their names engraved, this was clearly a central symbol of unity of the Israelite Tribes.

I was thinking about this image a few month ago when we brought in Isaac and Rabbi Shawna Brynjegard-Bialik to do a workshop for a group of assistant camp directors. Their work had us bring together pop culture, comic books, art and Torah study to make out our own Paper Midrash. It was a  sophisticated text study through a unique art practice, leveraging contemporary narratives from comic books, movies and other pop culture to inspire new insights into traditional texts.

In their workshop I let my mind go and explored my own understanding of leadership in light of comic book heroes and this vision of the High Priest from this week’s Torah portion. I came up with this:

 

 

In my breastplate the stones themselves where made out of the breastplates of 12 different comic book heroes. It is interesting to realize that they all wear their identity on their chest for all to see. The bottom of this is Kavod, the honor and respect, that is the foundation of all leadership. If you do not lead from that place  you are no superhero. It seems that now more then ever we need unity, protection, leaders who put themselves out there and a renewed foundation of respect.


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