New Year’s reflections–on tending our own gardens

“Transformation is a process, not an event.” – John P. Kotter, author of Leading Change

“To be leader, start with yourself.”  Jacob Morgan, INC Magazine

In a recent article in INC, Morgan cites Harry Kraemer, who suggests that part of being a leader is attempting to lead yourself.  He suggests four strategies for that:  self-reflection, balance, true self-confidence, and genuine humility.  For several years, I’ve both enjoyed offering leadership but also struggled with issues on a day to day basis — issues that I suddenly wanted support with.  I felt that it was important to take a break from the usual, and do something to support my own growth that was intentional and more sustained than the learning I’ve done at conferences.

When I ran across the Lilead Fellows application and the TLA Tall Texans group, I knew that something like this is what I’d been looking for.  I decided to apply to be a Lilead Fellow(a group of district librarians from around the country, now in it’s 2nd cohort).   It’s been a wonderful experience in that it has allowed me to engage in self reflection in a most intentional way.  I’d recommend to every leader to find an opportunity like this–a retreat, a job embedded leadership opportunity, a degree program – a intentional way to learn with a group of people.  So much of the learning we do is “on the job” as we move through our careers, that having a mid-career refresher with guidance is a tremendous source of growth.

Some things I’ve learned along the way–

How to be a better collaborator
How to engage a group of stakeholders for a common purpose
How passionately I believe in libraries and the possibility of libraries
How much I still have to learn
How passionately I feel about supporting students

I’m sure many of us have struggled as we grow in our leadership with imposter syndrome–with comparing ourselves with others–with wondering how we got where we were.  Kraemer’s point about self-confidence is an important one.  Morgan explains, “True self-confidence is accepting you who are and owning your skills and your flaws. Leaders who are truly self-confident know where they stand and work to improve themselves every day. ”   Completing the Strengths Finder exercise in the Lilead Program led me to realize how those things I’m good at (strategy, ideation, etc.) are focused around ideas.  That’s where some of my real passion lies.  Instead of knocking myself for not being as good at other things, knowing this gives me the opportunity to partner with people with other skills, to learn from them, but also to appreciate what I bring to the table in a new and more focused way.

This speaks to the self-leadership tenet of balance as well.  I’ve learned in the last year to say no to the occasional opportunity that isn’t lined up with my passion.  It’s difficult to do because sometimes I know it’s something where I could contribute greatly, but I have to own that I can’t do everything well, and that if I don’t feel passionately about something, I am less likely to be successful at it.

The other best part of this process, is by intentionally building skills–I’ve opened the door to new collaborations that were right around me to begin with.  I’ve also opened up new connections with leaders from around the country, and learned how to ask for more help.  My style seems to have been to go it alone and I can do that, certainly.  But learning more intentionally to collaborate has added value to my life and to my work, as well.

This year I’ve made new friends, build new relationships, connected more with students than ever–all by tending to my own growth like it’s a garden.  So as this year ends, I’m sharing this reflection to both own my own flaws and foibles, but also to encourage each of you to take time out to tend your own garden.

Liberty Hyde Bailey, (who contributed to starting 4-H for children), writes, “A garden requires patient labor and attention. Plants do not grow merely to satisfy ambitions or to fulfill good intentions. They thrive because someone expended effort on them.” 

Ultimately, the time we spend on this patient attention benefits our students and their futures.  Our students deserve places like libraries that are devoted to their blooming.  “The library is not perceived as just a provider of practical answers and information; the most committed supporters hold the belief that the library is a transformational force.”  (OCLC – From Awareness To Funding).  We all must fight to defend, build, and grow those transformational spaces for students because the library is the garden of the school.

But to lead others to that understanding, first we do have to tend our own gardens and grow our own leadership with “patient labor and attention.”   Here’s wishing you find some tools to tend your garden.

And here’s to blooming in 2018….Happy New Year!

One thought on “New Year’s reflections–on tending our own gardens

  1. As a student currently studying to become a library technician, I was very interested in what your article had to say on growing as a leader naturally, since we as people are in a constant state of change and intellectual improvement. I’ll be sure to check out some of your other articles as well, since your blog has an emphasis on the ever constant change of technology and how it can and should be applied to libraries and schools where appropriate.

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