My career and volunteer service has increasingly demanded that I continue to develop management skills. I am not alone in this, particularly as people guide their work through the pandemic and the (maybe, kinda, sorta?) post-pandemic world. There are two ways to approach this. As usual, the first is to do nothing and rely solely on instincts. In my estimation, this has a low probability of success. Even if it finds success, it has a low probability for fostering loyalty from a team or organizational growth. Few people, or at least myself, have baked in instincts for our managing the work of others and scaling organizations.
These are not the sorts of things our ancestors prepared us for. Knowing I should run from an attack? Baked in. Finding cover during cold and wet weather? Baked in. Investigating things that make us curious? Even that, baked in. Knowing how to position our donor portfolio to attract more foundations? Needs to be taught.
So then, we’re left with ‘doing the work.’ During the pandemic I took on managing a bigger team, continued to supervise a large group of graduate students, and attempted to develop a new center almost entirely on Zoom. I turned to leaders I admire for guidance – including Molly Brummond’s New.Now.Next. women’s leadership cohorts. In these sessions we did a few things, but one of the most notable exercises helped me develop tools to fall back on when things are tough.
It’s easy to lead when everyone is performing excellently, things are on a roll, and growth is thriving. Sadly, those sweet spots rarely pop up on their own and rarely live long – not because people aren’t loyal and talented – but because life is life. As in, life happens.
Molly challenged our group to develop our own leadership statements and walked us through that process. This statement is my guiding light during decision-making and going into awkward or difficult conversations:
- Am I being true to these ideals?
- These are my values, am I following them?
- This is how I think about leadership, and is the kind of leader I can be at my best.
I started with the values I developed working through Brene Brown’s work on leadership. These are the core parts of who we are and what we rely on. For me, these are:
Dreaming and doing, baybee.
From there, Molly walked us through a series of questions pushing us to think about our core beliefs about success. In the end, I got to this, which I (such a nerd) made into this desktop image:
I believe everyone has something to contribute.
My attitude will be nimble and I will be adaptable. My words will be reliable and clear, but gentle.
I will lead by celebrating our differences, initiating opportunity, and seeking creative ideas.
I believe my enthusiasm for new and different opportunities is my best resource.
I expect myself to stay calm, kind, and collaborative in situations where it is easy to let frustration, judgement, apathy, or fear lead my actions.