Rachel Alexander is an alumna of the Wexner Graduate Fellowship/Davidson Scholars Program, Class XIII.  Rachel is currently the Director of Development for the New York Campaign of Hillel: The Foundation for Jewish Campus Life.  She can be reached at ralexander@hillel.org.

“Leadership is about making a positive difference for and with others.  Leadership is about the integrity of one’s character, the caliber of one’s capabilities, and the effectiveness of one’s collaboration with others.“

 – Carly Fiorina, Author of Tough Choices.

I began working at Hillel in February, 2010. My first assignment was to coordinate the annual dinner.  The goal was to raise $1 million to further perpetuate Hillel’s ability to aid Jewish college students. I was eager to make a good impression during my first few months on the job. I have effectively implemented dozens of fundraisers, and I knew that I could plan a dinner that would be a success.  During my first few days on the job I met the handful of staff in my New York office and another dozen staff in the Washington, DC office who are involved in our fundraising efforts. The job of organizing a fundraiser involves thoughtful leadership, dedicated volunteers and a well-thought out implementation strategy.  Because of my experience, I knew how to generate a 16-week plan from vision to implementation.  However, I barely knew the staff and I did not know any of the volunteers.

In the past, I have been the sole operator in organizing an event.  I knew how to trust myself to create a plan and implement it myself.   However, this was a completely different experience.  I needed to let go of much of the hands-on responsibilities and learn each staff person’s strengths and abilities.  This time I needed to rely on dozens of people who each took a piece of the “to do” list that I created.

Another challenge for me was finding a way to lead the project when so many other people also had key roles in the implementation of the plan.  I learned an important lesson that leadership does not mean doing the job yourself.  I spent the majority of my time learning each person’s role: who creates marketing materials, who solicits the top leadership, and what is my role as the leader?

Although I may not agree with Carly Fiorina on many topics, I was reading her book Tough Choices during this process.  She taught me a critical lesson:  that leadership is about the effectiveness of one’s collaboration with others.

I needed to trust a large staff that I had never worked with and assume that each person would complete their piece of the project.  Everyone cared about the success of Hillel and was willing to go above and beyond to ensure my success as well as the success of the event.

On June 2, 2010 we were able to announce to Avraham Infeld that we had raised over $1 million in his honor.  Although my fingerprint was not visible on each area of the project, I knew that it was because of my leadership in collaborating with a complex organizational structure that we were able to reach our mutual goals.