Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Why're you doing this? What's your motivation?

I participated in a #libleadgender chat about paths to leadership. I appreciated hearing a group of women talk about how they have found themselves in leadership roles and the challenges and opportunities these leadership roles present. I also appreciated the space for self-reflection about my leadership experiences and about the projects I choose to involve myself in.

At one point in the conversation, I tweeted this:

In December, I wrote about how I was hoping to be more intentional about the projects I say "yes" to and the projects I step away from in the hopes of practicing good self-care. I feel like at every transition point in my career, I've felt pressure to take on projects in order to help myself advance to the next transition point. I felt it as a new librarian. I felt it as an unemployed librarian. I felt it as a project-based librarian. I feel it as a new middle manager. I pressure myself to say yes to chairing the committee or taking the minutes in the hopes of being offered greater levels of responsibility in my own library as well as in The Profession. And when it pays off and I'm offered greater levels of responsibility, it feels really great. There's something exciting about being chosen to lead and I like being seen as trustworthy and reliable by my peers.

What gets lost in that post I wrote is that if I choose to lead--if you choose to lead--for the wrong reasons, we steal leadership opportunity from someone whose skill set is a better fit for the task. This is a crappy thing for us to do, especially when that someone is a person new to the profession who really wants to find a way to be seen by their peers as trustworthy and reliable. If we say yes because we want to continue to be offered opportunities, we'll continue to get opportunities. But then our the committees in our own libraries and in our professional associations become an echo chamber.

And sure, we may want to value experience and wisdom when making decisions. But valuing wisdom and experience at the cost of involving people newer to the profession is problematic. We drive away new professionals who don't see themselves reflected in the values of our libraries and professional associations. And we get stuck in the 'this is how we've always done it' mindset that is so dangerous for growth.

So here's my pitch: don't just say no to chairing a committee or taking the minutes when you know someone else would be a good fit. Offer the name of a person you think would be good to take your place--preferably someone who doesn't get very many opportunities to show their colleagues that they're trustworthy and reliable. And if you (like me) suffer from Fear of Missing Out, don't worry. There's always another project or committee.

Stay positive,

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