Reaction: Me vs. Us Museum Leadership

Added to Medium, November 1, 2018

In the past, I have written a number of blog posts about museums and leadership. I decided to write one more about museum leadership when I came across Joan Baldwin’s “Me vs. Us Museum Leadership” posted earlier this week. Baldwin started her post on Leadership Matters website with a few examples of servant leadership, or as described in the post a form of leadership that puts people first and ultimately everyone serves the institution. She pointed out in the post that

We can’t all be servant leaders. In fact, of the many leadership qualities, servant leadership is one of the hardest because it asks a leader not to be the center of attention. Instead, it puts staff and organization in the spotlight. It makes for a museum where director/staff relationships are strong, where staff know the director has their backs, and where there is always hope because collectively everyone serves the museum. Sounds like workplace heaven, right? Maybe. It’s not a panacea, but take a week and be intentional about the following:
· Standing behind your staff.
· Saying thank you.
· Listening. A lot.
· Acknowledge a diversity of opinions. And really listening to them.
· Modeling the behavior you want. If you wish staff would shut off lights in spaces not in use, do you do it yourself? Or do you just send emails asking others to do it?
· Mentoring, counseling, developing leadership in others.

Each individual is different, and therefore would be comfortable with whatever leadership style they are comfortable. I think that servant leadership would be beneficial for relationships between directors and staffs so there is not only a strong bond between them This servant leadership style seems to accurately describe how I define leadership since I approach leadership as every individual has something of value to contribute to how we can help museums continue to function, and we should help one another develop each other’s skills especially leadership skills.

The blog post I wrote “Where You Lead, I Will Follow: The Importance of the Leader-Follower Relationship in Museums” expresses the need for leaders and followers to work together on keeping museums running. As I previously explained in this post,

Leaders and followers have varying experiences in the museum field, and they can learn from each of their perspectives to run the museum. Followers typically work directly with the visitors, and learn from the visitors what museum staff and the museum in general can improve on to fulfil its goals. Leaders typically work with the administrative tasks that run the museum such as but not limited to grant writing and ordering materials for programs.

What we need to remember is the museum’s most valuable asset, other than its collections, are its staff, both paid and volunteers. Leaders and followers in the museum field have many contributions to help its museum continue fulfilling the mission. Each museum professional working in a museum have varying needs, emotions, and personality traits, and being able to work effectively with groups and within groups is essential to the museum professional and to the museum’s success in fulfilling its educational mission.

I understand that the relationship between leaders and followers I described in this post seems to be close to what Baldwin’s blog post defined as servant leadership. One of the reasons I thought that what my thoughts on museum leadership is close to servant leadership is when Baldwin made the suggestion to readers: Mentoring, counseling, developing leadership in others. We need to work together to not only use our leadership skills to make museums serve the community better but it will encourage future leaders to become more involved in the museum field.

What type of leadership works for you and for colleagues in your museum or organization?

Announcement: Next week there will not be a new blog post because I will be at the New England Museum Association (NEMA) conference, but I will share previous blog posts. Also, I will write about my experience at the NEMA conference after next week.


Where You Lead, I Will Follow: The Importance of the Leader-Follower Relationship in Museums:

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I am a passionate and dedicated individual who is determined to provide local and national history for future generations to appreciate their roots and teach the next generation. My love for museums began from a very young age. When I was a child, my family encouraged myself and my sisters to visit various historic sites and museums including Plimoth Plantation and Salem Witch Museum, and continued as I grew up when I saw places such as the Birthplace of Abigail Adams. My lifelong passion for history led me to earn my Bachelors degree in History from Western New England University and my Masters degree in Public History from Central Connecticut State University. While I was in the Central Connecticut State University Public History graduate program, I worked on the Connecticut Historical Society’s “Cooking by the Book” exhibit that my group came up with the original proposal for. I also helped set up art exhibits at CCSU’s art galleries, and wrote a lesson plan on women contributions to society in the eighteenth century as a final project in the program for the Stanley-Whitman House museum. Along the way, I gained various experiences within school activities and museums. My experiences include working with students in school programs at the Stanley-Whitman House in Farmington, Connecticut, Connecticut’s Old State House, and Connecticut Landmarks Hartford properties. I also volunteered at the Franklin Historical Museum in Franklin, Massachusetts where I provided tours for visitors, helped organize public programs connected with town events, and kept an inventory of the museum’s collections. I became a full time Museum Educator with the Long Island Museum where I teach programs, and take on administrative roles such as schedule programs. Today, I am an independent museum professional working on various projects. For instance, I joined the Long Island Maritime Museum and Three Village Historical Society volunteering in the education and visitor services departments. I continue to look for opportunities in which I educate school groups and the public on the significance of the arts, history, and sciences in our society through the museum education field.

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