Back in the Saddle Again: Leadership is a Choice

You Decide

Hello, friends.

We’ve had a busy fall, and while the rest of the world blogged and tweeted away, we were solidifying a book contract. For more about that see the tab (above) call Women + Museums. So what have we been thinking about? That good leadership isn’t about whether your organization is large and well-funded. Good leadership is a choice. Your board of trustees should want it; your director should want it, and no matter where you are on the organizational chart, you should want it too. You may have a tiny piece of the pie, but you can step up and own it.

One thing we think hampers small organizations in particular is that they sometimes think of themselves as family. The staff knows one another well. Sometimes they know one another outside of work. Sometimes the board knows them. This complicates personnel decisions. Thinking of your staff as family is like imagining going to Thanksgiving dinner and saying what’s really in your head. It makes for boundary issues. All of this is especially complicated for organizations without an HR director. It means the director constantly has to remind herself what is best organizationally, not personally. By not speaking kindly, yet directly, about a problem, she may preserve individual feelings of good will, but weaken the museum as a whole. What do you do if you’re a staff of six with no HR director? Do you have an HR committee on your board? Do you have personnel policies and procedures? If the answer is no, contact your local chamber of commerce, your regional museum support organization or perhaps even a larger museum or cultural organization in your area. Set up a meeting. Ask questions. Start to put the pieces in place so as a leader you can make the best decisions for your museum and build a strong team.

Thoughts on making HR decisions? Let us know.


2 Comments on “Back in the Saddle Again: Leadership is a Choice”

  1. David Grabitske says:

    The phrase “best interest of the organization” resonates. I’m privileged to know and greatly admire four small museum CEOs who recognized the best interest of their organization didn’t include themselves. They fired themselves (resigned, really) in favor of a well-chosen successor. This is another way that the family analogy limps: no head of house would resign in favor of a hand picked successor.

    • Thank you for this insight, David. We think that self-aware leaders are particularly adept at understanding when an organization would be better off without them. It’s so important to understand that an organization’s leadership needs do change over time, meaning that leaders who were successful at one point in the organization’s history may not have the skill sets to serve the organization well for the longer haul. This is an issue that needs to understood from two (at least) perspectives: the leader’s and for the organization’s.

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