When I called my husband after a long day of Leadership work with the 2011 Emerging Leaders (EL) class and our facilitators yesterday, he asked me, “What Did You Learn?” I replied that my main take-away for the day was “Be Scared Everyday and Have a Drink in Your Hand”, he told me that sounded pretty unprofessional, even for me. But, actually, it might be one of the best pieces of professional advice that I have discovered thus far, and here is some insight into how “Be Scared Everyday and Have a Drink in Your Hand” might be able to change your life, too.
Personally, I have a hard time seeing myself as what I call “a leader”, so when I filled out the application for the 2011 ALA Emerging Leaders class to be sponsored by APALA, I felt kind of like a fraud. Sure, I like to make sure things get done. I like to volunteer to help when I can, and I tend to describe myself as an A-Type, goal oriented kind of person – but I was (and am) sure a leader is more than these things. Listening to the stories of leaders in ALA such as past-president Leslie Burger, and 2012-2013 presidential candidate, Maureen Sullivan, as well as Assistant Director of Princeton Public Library, Peter Bromberg, though, leadership can be learned – and the learning seems to begin with the kinds of qualities I possess. I joked with a colleague when we first arrived in the conference room that we weren’t leaders yet – we were only emerging. We still needed to be molded and cultivated. By the end of the day, I felt that maybe with a little more watering, and a little more fear, I just might make it.
The day started off with an introduction to the day’s work and an outline of ALA Governance and how the organization of ALA will allow you to navigate your path towards leadership. During this section, Past-President Leslie Burger (and founder of the Emerging Leaders program), led us through the basic infrastructure of ALA, which was helpful, since it’s kind of hard to keep all of those Councils, Round Tables, Committees, and so on straight. The most profound and helpful thing she said came during the Q&A portion, at the end of her talk. A colleague asked her “How Did You Get to Where You Are Today?” After trying to trace her long and full professional career, she told us that at her first ALA, a mentor took her aside and gave her a little body-language 101 lesson for talking to people during the conference – cocktail parties, in the halls, panels, etc. One of the things he told her was to keep her body language open – don’t cross your arms. The easiest way to accomplish this task? Have a drink in your hand (alcoholic or non-alcoholic was not specified). If you have a drink in your hand, it’s more difficult to cross your arms. So that solves the mystery of the second half of the title of this blog post. The first? She said that everytime she undertook a new leadership position or a new project, she was scared. She said that as an introvert, these lessons in networking and public speaking were necessary, but they were scary. Once she conquered those fears, there were the fears of new positions, new initiatives, and new projects. By facing the fear in the face, she knew that she was challenging herself and that she was learning how to be a leader. Essentially, what I took from this meeting, phrased so eloquently by Peter Bromberg, was “Be Scared Everyday and Have a Drink In Your Hand”. As someone who can be terrified of meeting new people and networking, and who can be afraid of facing her full potential, I find that using the tools I have been provided with and challenging myself everyday is going to be a great theme to live by.
As for the other parts of the Emerging Leaders program yesterday, Maureen Sullivan led a great group discussion on what make an efficient leader, and identifying in ourselves what attributes we already possess, and what attributes we need to work on. A lot of self-reflection was involved, which was good for me, since this is one of the first times in my life I am really contemplating what capacity I have to be a leader and what I need to work on to be the best leader within that capacity.
Much of the day was also spent discussing our group projects. Each EL is assigned a project from their list of choices and they have the opportunity to work with their EL colleagues as well as a mentor from the group sponsoring the project. I have the privilege of working on the project for the Library Leadership and Management Association (LLAMA), which is being mentored by Dr. Janine Golden, President-Elect of LLAMA and Professor at Texas Women’s University. Our staff liaison is Kerry Ward, the Executive Director of LLAMA. I’m not sure how much of our project I’m allowed to reveal at this point, but our basic goal is to survey LIS schools across the country and look at their management programs to determine the role of LLAMA in those programs and how to foster greater collaboration between LIS students and LLAMA. Our portion of the project is only 1 in a 3-part initiative, which LLAMA hopes further EL classes will participate in to carry our work to fruition.
My group is comprised of a strong, smart group of women, who I can see myself working well with over the next six months. Right away, we got down to business and came up with a plan of action, deadlines, and expected results. All of the people I met yesterday were wonderful and helpful, and I hope to foster relationships which will last through all of our work at ALA. I have high hopes of the lessons learned and the results which will be produced over the next 6 months. Thank you, APALA, for providing me with such a great opportunity to foster those leadership tendencies that will help me to finally Emerge as a Leader.