Byron's Babbles

Leaders See the Faces

Posted in Education, Educational Leadership, Leadership by Dr. Byron L. Ernest on April 11, 2015

 I had the privilege this week to accompany our Hoosier Academies families to Washington D.C. It was a great trip and I loved getting to know our families and students we serve better. As you probably know I have spent a great deal of time in our nation’s capital and every time I am there I learn something new to reflect on. This time was no exception. When visiting the exhibit dedicated to women,  Women in Military Service For America Memorial, at Arlington Cementary I was struck by how personal the exhibit was. It is very well done. You actually get to know the women that have served our country personally – it was humanized. This made it so much more powerful experience. I knew these women’s stories when I was done.   Then, later that day our group went to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. This museum is a very intense experience that starts with you being given a card with information about an actual victim of the Holocaust. You are to reflect on this person as you move through the museum. Believe me, it becomes very personal! The individual I was given was, Iosif Rivkin. Here is his story: He was born in 1891 in Minsk, Belorussia. Iosif was born to a Jewish family in the Belorussian capital of Minsk. He fought with the Tsarist troops in World War I and was taken prisoner by the Germans. When he returned to Minsk after the war, he began working in a state-owned factory building furniture, an occupation in which a number of his relatives also made a living. 

By the early 1930’s Iosif was married and had three daughters. They lived in central Minsk. By the late 1930’s Minsk was filled with Polish refugees fleeing the German invasion. On June 27, 1941, the invading Germans reached Minsk. The Rivkens’ home was bombed the next day, and they were forced into the street. They slept by the river with numerous other refugees, until German guards threatened to shoot them all. German posters in Minsk declared that the Nazis had come to liberate the Soviet Union from Communism and Jews. In August the Germans set up a ghetto, there Iosif was put to work as a carpenter. When the ghetto was liquidated in October 1943, Iosif and his family were deported. Iosif’s daughter, Berta, escaped from the ghetto before it was liquidated. Iosif and the rest of his family were never heard from again.

As I reflected on his story, I caught myself really having feelings about what had happened to him and his family. Why was I able to do this? Because I was able to see the faces of Iosif and his family.  Isn’t that an important skill that leaders learn? It is important for us to tell the stories so that those we lead understand the faces, the values, the mission, and the vision. I really believe in the value of telling stories as a leader, but had not really thought about the exercise of seeing the faces myself. Not to me mention telling the story so those we lead see the faces. This was such a powerful lesson. I really believe that our great leaders that we celebrated while in Washington D.C., like Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King Jr., Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy all were able to see the faces of all those Americans they served. After reflection, I really believe it was their ability to see the faces of the people that gave them there wisdom.   I am so glad I had this revolation and then was able to spend time on the trip getting to know a cross section of the Hoosier Academies families I serve. As the leader of a very large statewide school system that serves students in every county in the state of Indiana, it is very important that I am able to see the faces of those we serve. Are you taking time to see the faces and truly understanding those you lead? 


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