Learning to lead

It’s really to easy to drop the ball when you’re learning to do new work.  Today, I’m thinking about assuming leadership positions that don’t arise organically.  I’ve always been OK with certain kinds of leadership–mobilizing, for example, which is a strength of mine. 

I’m struggling these days (this week, more specifically) with leadership that comes from/with titles first.  At the beginning of this year, I took on the role of General Education Coordinator in the English Department.  It made (and still makes) sense; I’d just been tenured/promoted; our comp/rhet faculty rotate through administrative positions so that we share the burden of administration.  Things got a little messy because our department has restructured dramatically, and who’s responsible for what got a little confusing. 

I could, I wish, just leave it at that, and believe that this year has been a process of letting the dust settle.  But when my dept chair approached me yesterday to note (gently) that there’s a perception I’m not doing my job well, I realized that part of what’s happening has been a resistance to taking on the authority that the job entails.  I have a very large committee among whom to distribute work, but because two of the members were on the committee that hired me and several others have been mentors since I got here, I’ve felt a little weird about asserting any authority. 

What will probably happen is that I’ll simply start asking people to do things and they’ll do them.  My experience as an organizer has taught me (a lesson I somehow forgot in this instance) that people will generally rise to any occasion with prompting.  In the meantime, I need to keep reminding myself that one reason the university tenured and promoted me is that they believe I’m capable of doing what they’re asking me to do.  The learning curve argument only goes so far…

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