Leadership · Library Philosophy

Boss Man!

leadership-bossI’m the boss now. Not of a whole department, or anything, just a small unit, but still, I’m the boss. I have (soon-to-be) five people under me for whom I am responsible and who are responsible to me. I’m in a position to have a serious affect on their lives. I can say when we hire someone, when we fire someone, and who deserves a good performance review. Just today I began working on documents to describe a new position we want to fill. I’m helping to create a position that has never been there before, and someone will fill that position and their lives will be changed because of it.

This is new for me.

I’m not changing the world, of course, and my existential musings on my new power are probably overstating the truth, but I’m having trouble adjusting to the fact that I’m the boss now. Other people willingly gave me the ability to lead a group and make substantial and consequential decisions. In twelve years of library service no one has ever done that before and I’m still getting used to the fact of it. It’s as humbling as it is frightening.

I suppose the good news here is that the feelings I’m having are those instead of abject ambition and demanding overconfidence. I didn’t storm in here demanding respect and authority. I didn’t come in with a bunch of notions of what needs to change because I’m the boss and I know better.

So far, I’m leading by following. I have four employees who have been here for a while who are all competent and dependable. Before I make a decision I ask what the tradition has been and how well that works. A month in I’ve been able to make some small changes and contributions toward the future. As time goes on, I assume I’ll become more proactive, but right now I’m still getting used to being the man in charge. My first inclination is still to run things past my boss. I’m having to fight that and remember that I’m here to make the decisions so that she can concentrate on other, more important things. My job is to keep problems off her desk, not pile more on.

Another, and more luxurious, problem I’m having is deciding how friendly to be with my staff. We’re all within the same 15-ish year range, as far as I can tell. We enjoy each others’ company, and there are opportunities for us to spend time together outside of work. How do I navigate being social with my employees? My first inclination is to not socialize outside of work at all. No one wants to be in a position where the feel like they have to spend time with their supervisor outside of work. But if an activity has been brought up in the normal course of jovial conversation should I go? The answer will change with every environment, but currently I’m leaning toward, “yes.” At least for the time being, I’m very happy with my staff both professionally and personally, so I see no reason to be standoffish with them in present circumstances. Perhaps that will work out, and perhaps it won’t, but right now I’m willing to risk it for the sake of “team cohesion.”

So, one month in to the new job and the new authority. I’m still growing into my power as well as my tasks. I’m looking forward to who I will become in the next few months and how I traverse these new waters. It’ll be scary. But I hope it’ll still be good.

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