When I tell my colleagues I’m running for President-Elect of SLA, some of them ask me, with looks ranging from skepticism to awe, “Why do you want to do this?” A lot of answers have been tumbling out, and I don’t know if I’ve answered the question the same way twice. Just a few short months ago, one of the reasons, I thought, was to give back to all the wonderful mentors I’ve had. But I’m finding, really, it is enlightened self-interest. There is truth in the old saying that the more you give, the more you get.
People are so willing to share their insights, stories and vision for SLA. They want me to know how to move the Association forward. They—you—are trusting me with your insights.
It took a huge dose of courage to step up to this election, and to be honest there is a lot of self-doubt that goes into being a candidate for office. It’s akin to what Joseph Campbell wrote about in his epic Hero With a Thousand Faces. Early on there is a key part of every good story called “The Refusal of the Call.” This is where the reluctant hero argues against his logical path of action and tries to back out. It’s where Luke Skywalker basically told Obi-wan, “Look, I hate the Empire as much as anyone, but there’s nothing I can do about it right now.” It’s what I told myself a thousand times. And then…I agreed to place my name on the ballot.
But now, I’m really glad I stepped up—it’s been an honor already. I don’t know for sure how this ends, but I’m going to give it my best. You’ve entrusted me with your support and wisdom. I’m going to return the favor.
It’s really about volunteerism, in a new wordrobe (get it? word-robe! ha!). Maybe it’s volunteerism on steroids. Its not by any means an American trait. It has its roots in Old World philanthropy and noblesse oblige, in what Alexis de Tocqueville called “enlightened self-interest.”
I want to do my part to make SLA “Future Ready” because I believe it’s critical for the organization. It’s also in my own self-interest to make sure we’re ready for the next stage.
So, what’s in it for you? What enlightened benefits are you getting from your participation in SLA?
As a joke, someone recently offered me their copy of Leadership Secrets of Attila The Hun, which is a light-hearted look at how an obscure barbarian leader might sum up his approach to managing an unruly horde.
However, I have a better leadership model to work with – our two golden retrievers, Arnold and Ginger. Even though they passed away last year, within six weeks of each other, I still think of them all the time. I miss them now because of their sharp instincts and insights.
At the SLA conference in June, candidates will be asked to speak about their leadership philosophy, and key traits that make good leaders. So I boiled down some of the dog widsom that I witnessed and tried to translate them into positive leadership skills.
|Dog Wisdom||Leadership Skill|
|Head down, tail up||Dogs are always on the lookout for new information that will inform their world and help them make the right decisions. A happy dog has their nose to the ground, seeking out new data, and their tail is usually up, indicating they are in a good mood.|
|Join the pack||Dogs are pack animals and so are we. If you join the pack, the pack will be stronger for it. A good healthy pack has a wide variety of individuals, all pulling in the same general direction. Good leaders inspire others to share the load for the good of the entire group. Good packs have a nice balance, and the members seem to have more fun.|
|Wag more, bark less||A good leader should have a pleasant demeanor and welcome meeting new people. Keep wagging your tail as you sniff out a new friend and everyone benefits. A good leader doesn’t dominate the conversation with a lot of barking. In fact, a good leader often doesn’t have to do a lot of barking – if you’ve watched Caesar Milan on The Dog Whisperer, you know that a subtle nip is all that a good leader needs to keep everyone’s tail wagging.|
|Some bone need to be chewed thoroughly||Have you ever seen a dog leave a bone when it still has meat on it? Neither have I. Dogs will relentlessly work a bone until the job is completed.|
We all wish we could be the person our dog thinks we are. Your SLA leadership team is the same way – we want to do right by our members. We put high expectations on ourselves and try hard to do good things, but we need your feedback – a kind word, a pat on the head – to keep us on the right trail and make for a doggone good pack.
When asked about her well-known affinity for SLA, long time member Barb Spiegelman told me that every year, when she enters the Info-Expo at the Annual Conference and looks around at the vendors, the buzz, and the attendees, she can’t help but smile. “These are my people,” she said happily.
I know what she means. I find it so energizing that almost every conversation at the Expo is about libraries, about advancing the profession, about how to deliver information at the right time. I’ve been looking forward to the 2009 Conference for a few weeks now. It’s my chance to talk to people with great ideas about the issues of the day, and to feel good about where I fit in. It’s nice to reconnect with the other members of our “tribe.”
One of the great things about the Internet is the way it pulls people together into self-directed groups. We can follow our favorite bloggers, join mailing lists, surf in web circles, and join Facebook groups, all at our leisure. My thinking is that we are searching for “our people” every time we join one of these electronic tribes.
For example, I recently signed up to join a “twibe.” Another tribe for librarians is on LinkedIn. And of course, there are several different communities at SLA. At every turn, I’ve met librarians who share some of my passions, and it feels great!
Seth Godin, marketing guru and keynote speaker at last year’s SLA Annual Conference, has a new book titled Tribes: We need You to Lead Us. He writes that being part of a tribe is something people hunger for. “Tribes are everywhere now, inside and outside of organizations, in public and in private, in nonprofits, in classrooms, across the planet. Every one of these tribes is yearning for leadership and connection.” (p. 8)
Godin says that great leaders create movements by empowering the tribe to communicate. “They establish the foundation for people to make connections, as opposed to commanding people to follow them,” he tells us (p. 23). To me, making connections is a key part of leadership, because the more feedback we get from people we trust, the better the consensus we build.
We seem to be living in the Golden Age of Social Networking, where it is possible to search the entire planet for tribes we’d like to join. Of all the tribes that I am actively part of, my SLA membership is the biggest. Being part of the SLA tribe builds professional meaning, exposes us to new ideas and new trends, and challenges our tendency to settle for the status quo.
So my question for you is, what tribes are you a member of? Who are your people?
cindy dot romaine at gmail dot com