Higher Ed Solo
No one ever tells a solo about leadership. We’re often running our own shops, taking care of putting out multiple fires at once. We work hard and we play hard…but mostly we work REALLY hard. When you are working on a very small team or by yourself, there’s not a whole lot of delegation. You are always rolling up your sleeves to take care of what needs to be done, juggling multiple deadlines at once and ensuring quality control on your own.
While this is exhausting, there’s a certain kind of reassurance that comes from knowing that your work is being done the way you (and perhaps, those in charge with whom you’ve gotten to know through practice) like it to be done. The role of the manager and delegator is much different. You have to entrust that your processes are working. That you’ve communicated your expectations enough that people understand what you need and what your expectations are at all times.
One problem with being Armies of One, is we rarely get these experiences. Sure we might supervise students, but the relationships are much different. And the thing about supervising a small team of one or two employees is when you’re in the trenches together it’s a lot less like “boss and subordinate” but a relationship that resembles a mentorship/friendship one. (Which can sometimes come with its own issues.)
Leadership comes in many forms.
Early in my career, I was fortunate to have bosses who put me in positions well above my pay grade early on. Rather than be daunted by the gravity of these situations, I took pride in knowing they trusted me to run meetings with senior leaders without always have to be in the room. Even if this isn’t your situation, it’s good to know that when you decide to step up and do things that aren’t asked of you, it enables leaders to begin to trust and utilize your skills. In the past, I initiated website redesign projects that weren’t scheduled by just asking and making the case for moving the needle. When leadership give buy-in to ideas you generate, it encourages you to continue pushing ahead, even if all your ideas aren’t adopted.
If you’re just starting your career or have been doing the same thing for a while and feel stuck, maybe it’s time to do something different? That doesn’t always mean attempting to clean out your office to head to a new job. Think about the advantages of your current job. Are there things you can improve? Sometimes, it’s frustrating to deal with the constraints of our current workplaces. We see the same people day in and day out and think change will refresh and energize our worklives. Until we head elsewhere and realize that once you get the faces down and stop getting lost, that you’ll encounter a lot of the same problems you left behind unless you start solving the ones you can.
If you do see yourself in a different role than the one you’re in, whether you dream of being promoted internally or seeking opportunities elsewhere down the road, people are going to want to know what you’ve done to lead. It doesn’t always require having dozens of people on a team to carry out your bidding, it requires knowing — and recording — the ways you’ve impacted your organization by doing something that wasn’t considered a priority, leading a project no one else wanted to run and excelling at it or crafting your own leadership niche out of a role that others wouldn’t have bothered with.
Armies of one can be leaders. What will you to do lead in your job this year?