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When the Leadership Isn't Good


frustration ahead
  1. Make sure you know what it is you're supposed to do. Sounds simple, but it's amazing how many organizations haven't updated their job descriptions. Is your skill set lightyears from your job description? Making sure the two are in synch may change expectations--yours or your CEO's.

  2. Take care of yourself. Check in. Don't allow yourself to be used, made uncomfortable or insulted. Ignorance is not an excuse.

  3. Take ownership for what you can control. If your institution allows one professional development opportunity a year, make sure it serves your needs. If you are allowed to take an online course at work, make sure it builds your resume, not just the organization's.

  4. If things are uncomfortable, write it down. Know when the dumb jokes started, when you stopped being part of senior leadership team or how long it's been since you had an employment review. Even in the digital age, it's not a bad thing to keep a work journal in pen in a spiral bound notebook.

  5. Be the leader your boss/department head or director isn't. That doesn't mean trying to take their job, it means taking the high road, being kind, being collegial, pulling the team together even when bad management makes everyone feel unsafe.

  6. Network! Obviously the lack of leadership at your own institution is a drag, but it isn't the end of your career. Find your role models elsewhere, whether they're digital or colleagues you meet locally or regionally. And if there isn't an organization, call up six people who do your job in your city, town or state, and ask them for an after-work drink or an early morning latte.

  7. Learn to speak for yourself. That's not the same as speaking about yourself, but look for openings to tout your own successes.

  8. Know when to leave. Sometimes we are so inured to bad management that we allow inertia to hold us in place. Yes, there are a million complications from significant others to aging parents to college tuitions to keep us in place, but if you're going to stay, understand why and give yourself a time limit or a goal--I'll stay 'til my car is paid off, my partner finishes graduate school, my child finishes eighth grade. So we're guessing not all of you out there in museum land are blissful. Tell us how you manage.

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