Ruminations on bossiness

ImageWhen I was in undergrad I interned at the school paper. While there, the editor in chief began daily asking me if I was interested in his position. I spent the first six months saying no. Then I spent a month saying I’d go ahead and apply but I wouldn’t take the job, even if they offered. And then they offered. And, as you might have guessed, I said yes. It’s not that I didn’t think I couldn’t handle the responsibility, it’s just that some aspects of management just don’t appeal. Interpersonal conflicts, for example, are definitely not my cup of tea. And at my college, being the editor in chief of the paper got you under a little too close scrutiny: Fellow students wondered why you weren’t asking the hard questions, the administration wondered why you were so often painting the school in a negative light and the newspaper’s budget was laughable, at best.

I didn’t want to be the boss, but then I was. I think I made a good boss, or so my colleagues and adviser told me. But the thing I remember most was the long sigh of relief I was able to release when I handed the reigns off to my successor. I had spent the whole year waiting for a catastrophe and, even though it never came, I wasn’t able to fully enjoy doing my job. That experience has left me mostly soured on the idea of taking a management role in the future. Until this summer.

When I found out that the first 6-week sprint of the summer session is a management class, I was floored. Management seemed like an elective to me, something you took if you were planning on setting your sights on being the big cheese. But apparently not according to UMD. And I begrudgingly prepared myself for a class in which I had no interest. Until I dived headfirst into the ocean of readings assigned by the instructor. From them I’ve learned a few things that might convince me to take on a managerial role:

  1. With great power comes great responsibility, and that seems to be the number one lesson in the course. So much of the class discusses using the manager’s role for good: Getting more money for underpaid staff and underfunded programs; inspiring innovation among employees; creating and marketing new programs; the list goes on. I can see the appeal. Having the power to fix things is perhaps worth the stress of having to deal with some of the scarier aspects of the job.
  2. A great deal of managing is training. Because I easily pick up complicated computer programs and am even able to discover tricks to make a task more efficient, I’ve found myself training my coworkers (and even my boss). It’s a role I actually enjoy filling and one that, while a small subset of some managerial positions, I would like.
  3. Being an innovator. Actually being an innovator is scary, but it’s also exciting. Much of the future of libraries is currently in doubt. The basic tenants that made up a library are shifting and users are demanding services libraries traditionally weren’t responsible for. But beyond that, the evolving definition of information will require completely different roles for the library. Managers will need to explore, advocate for and implement these new programs and that’s an exciting aspect of any potential managing jobs.

So while I’m not sure I’m ambitious enough to be the Librarian of Congress, for example, I can actually see myself filling some of these roles on a smaller scale in a smaller library. What about you? Do you want to run the world or you satisfied with being a peon?