I feel that it’s important to say that the leader I admire is a woman, because I think women in leadership roles can often be misrepresented and misunderstood as some traditional characteristics of leadership are not seen as ‘female’.
The person whose leadership I admire is patient. She bases her decisions in concrete facts and best practices. She understands that change can be brutally hard, especially when people feel emotionally invested in the extant systems, but she is not afraid to doggedly pursue necessary change. She is a clear communicator, especially in writing, and follows up on details. She listens, and always has time for the people who work for her. She recognizes and deeply values the talents of her employees. She works tenaciously for what is best for her community.
I believe she is a successful leader because she strives for constant improvement. She believes that libraries can say yes, and do better for their patrons. She is important to me because her leadership had a significant impact on my life. It was her trust in me, and her desire to see me succeed, that brought me to where I am now in my career. I also had the opportunity to watch her slowly, gently, and persistently transform an institution to better serve its community, which was deeply inspiring. I hope I can someday be as effective and thoughtful a leader as she is.
As a librarian, I act as both a collaborator and a leader among my colleagues. It is key that I maintain a positive, helpful relationship with all of my co-workers. To do this, I steer clear of gossip, largely keep my friendships separate from my work, and offer my knowledge, assistance and input whenever it can be helpful. I’ve learned to speak up regularly about the services that the library can provide to busy classrooms teachers—at staff meetings, through email messages, and one on one when I hear about an issue a teacher is dealing with. As I have gotten to know my colleagues better over the past four years and developed stronger relationships, I have found it easier to take on leadership roles.
An area that I feel challenged to step deeper into a leadership role is in technology, especially because our school gets limited technology support/training/guidance from our district (we have a support person in the building only three days a week and no one in the role of tech integration). Our teachers need support and guidance in teaching with technology, a role that I am slowly filling with some limited success. Also, at the district level, there is no clear process for evaluating and purchasing online digital resources. Working at the district level is a challenge for me because it necessitates negotiating a power structure that I don’t clearly understand, with a large number of stakeholders who have competing priorities. This is a long term goal for me that often falls by the wayside because the short term demands of my job take precedence.
In my work, I tend to have so many different balls in the air at any given moment that I end up scrambling if I haven’t clearly articulated what I need to work on when. I need to balance the essential short term questions (what am I teaching tomorrow?) with the wide angle, large scale quandaries (how can we make sure all students read on grade level by the end of grade 2?), and make sure I don’t lose track of that grant application I wanted to write, or the upcoming event I am planning. Another of my challenges as a leader is my tendency to take everything on. I say yes, because I believe that, for libraries in particular, the default answer should be yes. I think I am still new enough at my job that I feel the need to prove my ability and worth as well.