A bit of good news.
Last month, I was accepted into the California Library Association’s 2021-22 Emerging California Library Leaders (ECLL) program. My goal as a leader is to uplift and inspire others to unabashedly pursue their dreams, particularly people from marginalized communities. I consider myself a member of such communities and I know I am here today through the efforts of countless others, both directly and indirectly.
This is what the program entails:
- Online and in-person workshops on topics are based on the Library Leadership & Management Association’s (LLAMA) leadership competencies
- Programs on topics such as the leadership path taken by many established library leaders
- Cohort opportunities for library professionals
- Work with like minded leaders to provide solutions to challenges the library profession faces.
- Continuation of My Leadership Journey conversations
We’re also supposed to keep a journal throughout the program. So here it is. I figure I could hold myself accountable by making it public.
Starting with You Leadership Journal
- How might your identity impact your leadership skills, behaviors, and decision-making?
As with so many things, we start with the question, “Who am I?” I am a 1st generation Filipina-American who never imagined I could be in a position of power or influence. I am a daughter, sister, auntie, cousin, and friend. I am a branch manager at a large urban public library system, and I’m aware that my very existence in this role may inspire others.
But let’s deconstruct this identity a bit. I try to come from a place of empathy, as it has served me well both personally and professionally these last 35 years of my life. As a child, I was sensitive to the needs and desires of everyone around me, to the point that I’d often overlook my own needs. I’m not sure if it’s a Filipino thing, but there is certainly something to be said about Filipino hospitality and generosity. This personality trait, while beneficial to everyone around me, has sometimes stunted my own personal growth.
However, I credit this sensitivity and empathy with my affinity for people in general. I care a lot. I care about my friends and family. I care about our patrons and the communities we serve. This people-first attitude is part of why I became a librarian; simply to help others in any ways I am able.
From a leadership standpoint, that means I put people before processes, and I prefer the human touch over a bureaucratic one. Life isn’t black or white, either/or, and neither are our workplaces. I try to approach all situations, positive or negative, with a nuanced, holistic perspective. All the management personality tests I’ve taken attest to this behavior. I like to get things done, but not at the expense of people. There are ways to lead without micromanaging and without being punitive.
Being a woman of color also puts me in the empathy camp. Women, particularly women of color, are regularly overlooked or even ignored by work culture and society. Many of us were taught to keep our heads down and follow the status quo. That we could go far if only we kept our mouths shut. Asian women are often dismissed as submissive (Although honestly, some of the most fiery people I’ve ever met are Asian women.) Either one rolls with this kind of upbringing, or one rails against it. I happen to consider myself in the latter group. I’ve spent far too much of my life trying not to fit neatly into a stereotype. I like to think I’ve succeeded in being a mouthy woman, but I know I still have a lot to work on.
When I was acting manager at a different branch, I helped a young BIPOC girl with her homework at the reference desk. She was precocious and inquisitive, and she bombarded me with questions. When she asked who the boss was, I grinned and told her it was me. Her eyes grew wide, as though she’d never imagined it could be me, or someone who looked remotely like me. I felt really proud in that moment. I was living proof to this little brown girl that women of color could be in positions of power and influence.
- What do you want to learn more about related to identity, implicit bias, allyship, and equity in order to improve your leadership skills and potential?
Our positionalities influence everything we do in life. How our identities intersect may dictate how we react and respond to difficult situations. I’d love to become more self-aware of my own implicit biases and how I can be a better ally to other BIPOC. Recognizing the lenses through which we view the world should allow us to do the ever-present work of advancing equity and justice in all aspects of society. The more I learn about myself, the better equipped I will be to lead and help others.
- What are you now recognizing about allyship opportunities that you may have missed in the past?
I am perhaps most guilty of not speaking up when I should. If I see or hear of someone being dismissed or marginalized, I need to be more confident about saying my piece and explaining why. There is a Filipino trait called pakikisama, which basically means harmony. Don’t rock the boat. That’s a sentiment I was raised with, but sometimes rocking the boat, removing the rose-colored glasses, is absolutely necessary to advance equity and justice.
- What questions do you have about identity, equity, allyship, and leadership?
I’ve thought a great deal about how these elements intersect in leadership. Being in a leadership position may afford one a lot of power and influence. I feel like I’ve written that a lot: “power and influence.” The prevailing question for me is how does my identiy inform my leadership efforts in equity and allyship? I see many of the connections, but crossing over from words to deeds is always the issue. I know it will take practice, both to recognize opportunities and to act on them.