From the Director, May 2013

Jan Levy, 04/07/2014

Recently, thanks to the generosity of a very good friend, I had the good fortune to travel to Israel and Paris for a three-week vacation. Taking vacation, the longer the better, is something I highly recommend - you truly get away, see new things, gain new perspectives, and simply relax in a new environment.
Jan's pictureRecently, thanks to the generosity of a very good friend, I had the good fortune to travel to Israel and Paris for a three-week vacation. Taking vacation, the longer the better, is something I highly recommend - you truly get away, see new things, gain new perspectives, and simply relax in a new environment.

The choice of these two destinations may seem odd to some - but for my friend and me, it was the perfect combination of intensity and fun, learning and doing, in two completely different environments. In Israel, everyone talks politics, and for every issue, you will find twenty passionate opinions. Paris was sheer entertainment - it's one of the most beautiful cities in the world, and opportunities to "eat, drink and be merry" abound.

Since I've been back, I've thought a lot about the trip and the enormous layers of complexities we encountered, especially in Israel. As I reflect back, I realize that here in the U.S. we are extremly insulated. Our news is filtered through a western media lens and given in bite-sized chunks. If we're lucky we may hear two sides to an issue - in Israel, you hear many, many more. Whether we were talking to Christians, Muslims or Jews, the stories were fascinating, and I kept wishing that people in the U.S. could hear all the different perspectives we were hearing. In Paris as well, everyone had strong views and they were much more nuanced than those we hear at home.

As I reflected on all of this, I realized that as leaders, it is our responsibility to listen for the nuanced opinions. We need to delve into the grey areas - nothing is ever black and white and we need to pay attention to all of the complexities and interests represented in the issues we encounter. This is especially important when we think we already know the truth about a particular subject, or the answer to a particular question.

In our current environment, everyone seems to be taking the "I'm right, you're wrong" approach to everything. It makes compromise almost impossible. I believe that, in order to understand what's going on with any complex problem, a leader must look deeply at all sides of an issue and take the time to examine all the layers beneath the surface. Only when we really understand others' points of view can we make educated recommendations that might actually move a conversation or an issue forward.

Courageous conversations are a valued component of the LT curriculum. I hope all of you take the time to lead these kinds of deeper conversations in your work and civic endeavors. The results might surprise you.