Summer 2017 Reflections on Leadership Role
This summer, I had the opportunity to serve in a leadership role within a well-established, residential academic summer program. I had a staff of 20, including both staff and instructors, and we had over 40 students.
Leading up to the program, I had many peers ask me why I would decide to take time away from all my projects to lead a summer program.
Firstly, I love being an educator and mentor, so having the opportunity to meet like-minded professionals, graduate students, and undergraduates is something that appeals to me.
Second, I was seeking the opportunity to further develop my leadership approach. As someone now working full-time on the teaching side, I wanted to maintain skills and exposures that I developed during my management/administration years of working.
I was very fortunate to have a great staff during the 3.5 weeks we were all together, and it was a wonderful opportunity to get feedback on my leadership approach. I would highly recommend doing this for anyone who is reflective and seeking the opportunity to test their leadership under a high-pressure, 24/7 environment.
Because I value transparency, I wanted to share the compliments and the feedback for improvement.
First, the good-- I was surprised that the feedback of my staff mirrored how my students view me. They saw me as being overall positive and enthusiastic about the work at hand and as being supportive of, encouraging of, and interested in them. I am glad this read through because that is how I was authentically feeling towards the position and them.
Another thing that was similar to my student evaluation feedback was being "funny" and having a good sense of humor. The use of "dad humor" in the classroom and within my work is important. I use it as a tool to break down barriers and to come across as more human and approachable.
Moreover, in my daily life, I have always held humor and comedy in high esteem, as it can be used as a tool to be inclusive and to create shared moments with others within a short time frame. This has been an area of consistency for me because I can remember so many times in elementary school when I was attempting to make the other students laugh. Laughing together can have such healing power and can temporarily remove the divisions formed between groups. I acknowledge that it can be used to hurt and divide as well, but that has never been my use of it as a professional tool.
Room for improvement-- I had one staff member feel as though I was micromanaging her too much. I was, admittedly, caught off-guard by this feedback because I approached her and our work with such good intentions and did not actually feel a lack of trust in her work. Unfortunately, when you are passionate about something, that can read as being too close in to someone else's work. I was so grateful to get this feedback though, as it made me more aware to be more direct in my support of my staff's creative freedom and contributions and to be less involved in the daily vision of their work.
I had not thought before about being an overly engaged boss, particularly because I have also gotten so many compliments for that quality, but I think it is important to view situations from others' perspectives. As a professional who felt she deserved a chance to lead within her role, I can see how that type of support and engagement could signal to her that I was getting involved because I questioned her work, even though that was never the intention.
All in all, the reflections on leadership were invaluable feedback for my current state as a professional. As a final piece, I wanted to save a memory for myself of the end-of-program cards some of my staff members gave me. I really cherish their kind words, and I am so happy to have crossed paths with them during this meaningful experience.