Some thoughts on my leadership journey

I was going through some of my Lancaster documents, and I found this note highlighting my 6-month targets during my first year at Lancaster. Looking back at this almost five years later, I felt privileged and humbled at what I managed to achieve in the past five years and where I am today. During my first year at Lancaster, I was developing the research services team, expanding the digital innovation team, and building my leadership style and reputation. I was keen to learn from the best leaders across the educational and commercial environments, and the fantastic Bonington leadership programme allowed me to do that. I also put in a lot of my time in the programme, in reflecting on what I learnt, how it would apply to me personally, and to my team and the Library in general. I would spend hours reading about the different leadership models and what connects with me. Equally important was what didn’t connect with me and reflecting on why that is the case, why a particular leadership approach won’t apply to me, and why I don’t want to deviate from my core values as a leader. Reflection on what may or may not work needs to go hand in hand with keeping an open mind and having a go at things. Today’s leadership in academic and research libraries require an integral element of experimentation and risk-taking, without which we will either become obsolete or irrelevant.

Another critical element of my leadership journey was to focus on long-term relationships across departments. This goes contrary to your immediate feeling in a new role where you are keen to get results delivered quickly. While getting results is crucial, it must not be at the expense of fracturing what can be a fruitful relationship in the long run. I also learnt a lot about giving and taking as a principle, the pressure points, the politics and relations of senior management. A fundamental principle that almost always delivers on is to ask for what you want, but highlight what’s in it for the other stakeholders. How would it make their life simpler, easier, or better?

The last point I want to mention is about personal reputation. You build your reputation initially as a subject matter expert or through your previous credentials. Reputation is only valid if you are and remain authentic to your values and thus to the kind of leader you want to be. If not, it will just be a matter of time before people can see through you. Reputation is also something you need to keep working on regularly, and in my opinion, it is crucial in cementing you in your leadership journey. The senior management would often be reading you as a person first and then your paper. They will look for your confidence in yourself, in what you are talking about, and how you approach the matter. They will also look for how you delivered in the past and therefore what level of trust relationship they already have with you. Understanding these things helped me develop myself as a leader, and there is a lot more to learn at the same time.

Also, as a matter of principle, always date your notes where you set yourself any targets. I have learnt that lesson now 🙂

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