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Museum Leadership: What Happens When You Screw Up?

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  1. Show some humility: Try "Maybe I got this wrong and we need to begin over. How should we change things?" In essence you've asked your team to see you are vulnerable. Why? Because you are. If you choose this path, mean what you say. There's nothing worse than asking people to help you out when you don't really want to listen.

  2. Understand that humility and courage are linked: In showing one you demonstrate the other. Both build trust.

  3. Make sure everyone participates from the beginning: A lot of novice leaders believe leadership revolves around their being the fount of all ideas while their team supports them. It doesn't take long for staff to realize their role is essentially passive. All they need to do is show up, smile appropriately, and wait for the meeting to be over. (Hint: If praise is what motivates you, leadership may be a difficult journey.)

  4. Believe in your team: A process, project or program is always better with input from everyone at the table. Presumably your team is smart. You hired them for a reason. Let them shine.

  5. Put your personal feelings aside: The fact that your car got stuck in the snow, your washer leaked, you haven't had a date in six months, or your adolescent broke a major rule is nobody's business but yours. Focus on the problem at hand. Your issues are not an excuse to snap at your colleagues.

  6. Work is not a competition: Leadership doesn't mean you have to best everyone on your team. You may be the path breaker, but you aren't better at everything. That's why you have a team. As a leader, Abraham Lincoln is perhaps best known for his enormous self-awareness and his ability to subordinate his feelings in favor of the work at hand. When things aren't going well, channel your inner Lincoln. Look at yourself from the outside. Get out of your own way, and focus on the work at hand. That's why you're there isn't it? Joan Baldwin

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