Qualities: Leadership Roles
I've never considered myself a "natural born leader," and I've actually said as much when asked such a ridiculous question in a job interview. While I suppose I have leadership skills, I prefer to use them in more subtle ways. I don't care if people know I'm the guy that accomplished something, as long as that thing worked out well and the goals were accomplished. I'd rather try to work with individual people one on one to try to accomplish something than make loud declarations and champion a cause.
My somewhat odd view on this topic can be seen in my leadership activities at the iSchool. As one of my classmates pointed out, I took a stance of "militant apathy" towards the open positions in the student leadership groups. That's just not my thing, even considering the less conspicuous roles that were available. Instead of trying to find a place where I could be a leader, I waited until something appeared that resonated with me, and that I believed in.
My first experience with the iEdge conference was in its year of inception. As a first year MLIS student, the conference sounded interesting and I thought it would be a good idea to so some sort of "service" in the form of volunteering since I knew I'd want to talk about that on my portfolio... I was assigned to do audio recordings, and that placed me at some presentations I may not have seen otherwise. Judy Ramey's talk, in particular, encouraged me to investigate the offerings in the Technical Communication department and ultimately I ended up taking my TC 517 class with her as the instructor. I also took a bit of initiative and presented a poster based on my independent study at the time.
But where is the display of leadership? That's coming...
When iEdge 2008 was in the planning stages, I knew it was something with which I wanted to be involved. I didn't have any clear desire to do anything in particular, but I wanted to help make it a great conference -- even better than the year before, if possible.
It wasn't long before I found myself acting as the main volunteer coordinator. I created surveys and sent out emails to get an idea of how many volunteers we could expect and in what sorts of ways they would prefer to help. My goal was not only to meet the volunteer needs of the conference, but also to ensure as much as possible that the volunteers were able to choose their roles and time commitments. Although it became a complex scheduling problem to solve, I handled it by creating a matrix in Excel and visually mapping out the volunteer needs, desires, and avialablility. It ended up being a lot of fun, and I believe people were happy with the result.
At some point during the planning phase a need for a poster submission coordinator arose. I stepped into that role as well. In addition to the survey and announcement emails that were sent out, I also tried to maintain frequent email contact with the poster presenters as the event drew near. I remembered the year before, when I was submitting a poster for the first time and had lots of questions. Thus, I tried to answer as many questions as I could initially and continued to help as new questions appeared in my Inbox. I think the poster session was a great success, with presenters from all the iSchool degree options, and even several prospective iSchool students! I was particularly impressed with the prospective Informatics students and the current Informatics students as the topics and presentaion of their posters was at the same level as the Masters and PhD students. I only hope that my attempt at coordinating the poster session made the experience good for everyone involved.
I also created a custom TiddlyWiki for the iEdge 2008 event that included searchable information about speakers and presentations, but also contained detailed information about the poster submissions and presenters. Finally, I printed up numerous postcards for the event, using the brilliant artwork provided by Michelle Hudson
While I may have a somewhat unorthodox view on leadership, I think I proved to myself with my iEdge work that supporting things I believe in and taking a more collaborative and personal role are effective. From what I've seen in the IA/UX world, this kind of collaborative leadership occurs frequently and I think I will have the ability to work well with others in my future career.