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Meet the Schusterman Fellows: Gil Galanos

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Over the course of 18 months, 24 outstanding Jewish professionals will engage in a customized professional development journey as part of the Schusterman Fellowship. The Fellows come from across the U.S., Europe, Israel and Australia, and they work inside and outside of the Jewish sector. As part of this blog series, we'll be bringing you short interviews with each of the Fellows in which they'll share a bit about themselves and their vision for the future. 

Meet Gil Galanos below!

Gil Galanos is CEO of Israel & Co., a nonprofit whose mission is to build a greater understanding of and appreciation for Israel among rising and established leaders.

Prior to joining Israel & Co. in 2011, Gil founded the U.S. Israel Business Council (USI), a trade association for which he still serves as president. USI brings together investors, entrepreneurs and business executives across key growth sectors to spur innovation and promote business between the U.S. and Israel. Gil also serves as co-chair of the Israeli American Council (IAC) of New York, an organization that is building an active Israeli-American Community throughout the United States in order to strengthen the State of Israel and to provide a bridge to the Jewish-American community.

Gil has a BSc in Information Systems Engineering from Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. He lives in New Jersey with his wife and three daughters.

1. What are you most excited to gain from the Fellowship? What are you most looking forward to learning?

As an executive director, I’ve been able to bring my entrepreneurial spirit and big-picture mindset to the cause. I'd like to strengthen my day-to-day management skills and Jewish knowledge, and learn from other Jewish leaders. I’m looking to this program as a way to further build my own capacity in Jewish nonprofit executive management.

2. "Leadership" is a popular term these days, used in a variety of contexts. Tell us, what does leadership mean to you?

For me, leadership is caring more about the cause than yourself. It’s about having a vision and inspiring others to support it. It's about knowing when to lead and, importantly, when to step back and let others take the lead.

3. What is the greatest piece of leadership advice you have received and do you use it?

Ever since I was a child, my mom has told me that with all I have to offer (she cited wisdom, persistence and emotional intelligence) there’s nothing I can’t accomplish as long as I set my mind to it. This advice gave me a great sense of confidence and helped me set ambitious goals.

Now, as a parent, I try to empower my daughters in a similar way, emphasizing the things that they are very good at and the notion that they can do anything in life so long as they focus on achieving their goals.

4. Who is a leader, living or dead, who you admire most and why?

I most admire David Ben-Gurion, the first Prime Minister of Israel. Ben-Gurion was a visionary. He was courageous, inspirational and led by example. He was driven by ideology to create the Jewish state and was willing to pay a significant personal price in order to achieve this goal. He loved Hebrew and taught his kids the language from an early age. He tried to avoid conflicts when they were not necessary, but was willing to fight for things that were strategically important to achieve his missions. Ben-Gurion inspires me in everything that I do to support Israel and the Jewish people.

5. If you could be compensated for your work with something other than money, what would it be?

Much more than money, I crave a sense of fulfillment. When we started Israel & Co., I was paid very little for my work, and there were times when there wasn't even enough money in the bank to pay my salary. With a family of five to support, this wasn’t the most comfortable situation to be in. Yet, at my core, I believed in what I was doing and, to this day, I feel it embodies my life’s mission. I gain a deep satisfaction from knowing that everyday I’m working to introduce leaders to the country I love.

The Charles and Lynn Schusterman Family Foundation is proud to empower emerging leaders to explore their values, identity and new ways to strengthen their communities. We believe that as we work together to repair the world, it is important to share our diverse experiences and perspectives along the way. We encourage the expression of personal thoughts and reflections here on the Schusterman blog. Each post reflects solely the opinion of its author and does not necessarily represent the views of the Foundation, its partner organizations or all program participants.