Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI)

“Leadership is a function of knowing yourself, having a vision that is well communicated, building trust among colleagues, and taking effective action to realize your own leadership potential.” – Warren Bennis

The Clergy Leadership Incubator (CLI) is a two-year program to support and encourage rabbis in organizational leadership, change management and institutional transformation. The program is open to rabbis serving congregations or rabbis who have created or are in the process of creating new models of spiritual community. For Cohort 6, which will commence in June 2023, the program will be open to rabbis who have been serving in the field between 5 to 15 years.

The program focus of CLI is on visionary leadership and innovative practice. The acronym CLI reminds us that clergy are intended to be human vessels that create sacred communities in which Jews can find meaning and purpose (klei kadosh). CLI’s curriculum was developed in partnership with Marty Linsky, one of the architects of the discipline of “adaptive leadership” developed at the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University and now used all around the world. The CLI program integrates the best thinking and practice in the field of synagogue transformation with the organizational tool kit developed by adaptive leadership.

CLI Fellows are supported by both a member of the CLI national mentor team and by a peer cohort that will form an interdenominational community of practice (COP). A strong premium is put on fostering an entrepreneurial spirit in order to establish spiritual communities that can be compelling to 21st century Jews. The CLI program is directed by Rabbi Sid Schwarz.

Key elements of the program include: Two-year syllabus with monthly readings; monthly participation in a Community of Practice of rabbinic peers; monthly consultation with a rabbinic mentor with significant experience and success in the field; three retreats of three nights each in different venues around the country; coaching and training from nationally prominent practitioners in field of leadership, organizational change and synagogue transformation.

Program Goals:

  1. Voice– To help rabbis engage in the work of personal discovery, better identifying their particular gifts, their rabbinic calling and finding their rabbinic voice.
  2. Vision– To advance the rabbi’s vision of what a vibrant, engaged spiritual community looks like so that they can help move their congregations in healthy, new directions, transforming the paradigm of their synagogues in ways that engage ever more Jews.
  3. Transformational Change– To provide the tools, strategy and support so that participating rabbis can evolve into visionary spiritual leaders who have the ability to be effective change agents in their communities. Each participant will work towards implementing an innovation in their respective institution that has the ability to transform the organizational culture in accordance with the vision developed in goal #2.

The CLI support system methodology

There are four ways that CLI participants will progress through the program. First are the in-person retreats. There are three retreats over the course of the two years—at the start of year 1, the start of year 2 and then to conclude the program at the end of year 2. The retreats are led by Rabbi Sid Schwarz and nationally prominent trainers in the fields of organizational leadership, social psychology, program evaluation and community building.

The second support is a syllabus designed specifically for the CLI Fellowship. With assigned readings for each month, the syllabus includes critical ideas and practical suggestions that become part and parcel of the tool kit for visionary rabbis.

The third support for CLI participants are the peer cohorts. The twenty participants in the program are divided into five, cross-denominational groups. Each forms a community of practice (COP) that convenes once per month for 60-90 minutes (via phone, webinar or alternate platform). Participants have the chance to present regularly to their COP and benefit from the feedback and input of their peers.

The fourth support for CLI participants is an assigned rabbinic mentor. The CLI national mentor team consists of some of the most innovative and successful rabbis in the country. The mentors meet with CLI Fellows monthly and serve as advisors, spiritual guides and role models. Even as the goal of CLI is for each participant to find their own, authentic voice, the career path, accomplishments and orientation of the mentor provides a compelling ideal for the CLI Fellow, inspiring them with the belief that they too can mold a career that can make a difference in the lives of Jews and in the nature of the Jewish community.

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