Andromeda Yelton

Across Divided Networks

four leadership lessons (and three questions) from ALA Midwinter

January 13th, 2011 · 6 Comments · Uncategorized

My head is racing with thoughts from ALA — you know, “my brain is full, may I be excused?” Little to no hope of ever digesting them all but, in the spirit of reflective participation in the Emerging Leaders program, I’d like to make a spirited attempt to write down thoughts on leadership: as Maureen Sullivan advised us, to be “aware and intentional” about developing this skill. So, in no particular order:

1)Be scared every day and have a drink in your hand: Peter Bromberg‘s distillation of Leslie Burger‘s talk to the ELs, capably (and quickly!) blogged by EL Lessa Pelayo-Lozada. The scared: throw yourself into situations where you don’t know what you’re doing but you need to succeed, and the crucible makes you learn how. The drink: is not actually to counteract the scared; it’s to force open body language while you go to the happy hours where all the real work happens.

Me on drinks: My ALA, for the record — my relationship to it, my involvement in it, the successes I’ve had in it so far — all started at the LITA happy hour at ALA Midwinter 2010 in Boston.

Me on scared: I keep gaining appreciation for how much the capacity to be scared, the ability to walk into ambiguity and not freeze or run away or give up, is a real skill, and matters.

2) Be generous. ALA leadership seems to be a gift economy, and I can’t count all the people who have been incredibly generous to me as I learn the ropes (though I have to mention Peter, Jason Griffey, and Janie Hermann). I am keen to be in a place in my career where I can pay it forward.

There’s some other lessons in there that I’ve elided, because I’m not sure I’m ready to commit them to a blog. But you might be able to get them out of me in other channels. (Particularly if you’re generous at happy hours. ;)

3) There is no spoon. I got this from Andy Woodworth’s blog a few weeks ago and keep coming back to it. The world is really, truly full of opportunities just waiting for you to notice and ask, or notice and do it. “Carpe diem” doesn’t mean “ask permission”. Which is why fellow EL Kate Kosturski is running for ALA Council (vote for Kate!). Which is how Jan Holmquist, Ned Potter, Justin Hoenke, and I — and a whole world of incredibly generous people on the internet — have raised almost half the money we need to buy India a library. Since Friday.

(Seriously: check that link out. There’s a box for our Facebook page in my sidebar now, too.)

4) Relationships. Meeting Brett Bonfield alone was worth the price of admission this weekend. Among the many reasons: during our panel on personal branding he talks about how he hates the term; for him, what it’s about is relationships: which people does he want to know? to collaborate with? And what can he do to make that happen? A moment when something clicked into place, right there.

And this, all this — barely even scratches the surface of my notes; is not the much longer list of things I know I don’t know about leadership. But at least gives me a fighting chance of capturing important parts of the experience while they’re still in my head.

And you, fellow travelers? What did you learn about leadership this weekend? What do you know you don’t know? What would you tell me today, or yesterday’s you?

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6 Comments so far ↓

  • Andy Burkhardt

    I’d probably tell yesterday’s me (a pre-grad school me) a lesson similar to yours about being scared. Growth, at least some of my most significant growth, has come from putting myself into situations where I have felt uncomfortable. I took a Information Literacy practicum in where I had to ultimately teach several classes on my own. I’ve stepped into leadership roles at work where I’m sometimes nervous. But in those situations you find ways to succeed and realize that perhaps leading or teaching isn’t quite as impossible as you once imagined.

  • Nicole Pagowsky

    That’s such a great wrap up, Andromeda, and puts all the advice in practical terms. I have to agree with Andy too, that the most significant growth comes from scary situations. I find myself saying yes to things before I even have a chance to get scared or nervous. Each time I do that, I get more experience and confidence for the next time, so the things I might have found scary before no longer are. I loved what Leslie and Peter had said about being scared every day… we should be, because that’s what keeps things fresh and exciting, and keeps the profession as a whole moving forward. Thanks for posting this!

  • Kate

    My favorite lesson was the third one – there is no spoon. You only get into it what you get out of it. If you put garbage in (i.e. no time) you get garbage out – just like the old computer acronym. If you get involved, you’re going to find a much richer experience. That’s what I took away from ALA and what motivates me further.

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