Finding the Leader Within
Do you think you have any leadership qualities? Have you ever been surprised that someone else thinks you do? I know that I have! When I first started working at the Office of Graduate Studies, I had a meeting with my new boss and we discussed many things about the job and how things worked there. I mentioned that I didn’t think I had any leadership skills and she said “I don’t know what you mean!” Then I said “I don’t know what you mean!” So, we talked about what she thought were my leadership qualities. She said that when I interviewed for the job, I told her that I wanted to change the way certain things were done in regard to getting fellowship applications collected and reviewed. She liked my ideas and we developed them into a workable Website for collecting applications and for creating a review process. I had talked with her about what I thought we should try and I didn’t really recognize that might be a character of leadership until I realized that what we were doing was new and different and that it might affect other people besides me. I started by wanting to make the job easier on myself and then I saw that what we wanted to do would help others on campus. Unfortunately, it was a bit labor intensive for the Web master, but after she got it set up and everything was tested and proved to be workable, it has now become easier for us both to get going each year.
I was then and am very lucky now because I have had the type of bosses that celebrate the skills of all the employees in the office and if there are new ideas, they should be embraced and the people that come up with them get the credit.
There are a lot of times when my current boss thinks of something new or wants to improve on what we have going on right now. It could be really easy to be lazy and say “I already have enough to do” or “if it isn’t broken, why fix it?” I learned very quickly that what she needs to do or needs to improve on are things that are good for graduate students and faculty. It isn’t busy work or a job that doesn’t have any meaning. I’m very thankful to be part of anything that is new, that brings us up-to-date or helps us to gain more prestige across campus. That makes my office move forward and makes UNL move forward. I am very proud to be part of my office and it makes me feel like I am helping to lead the way. Sometimes the leadership that I experience evolves during those special assignment times and if I think back on it, I see that it helps me grow every time the opportunity comes along.
Just recently she asked me to take on a leadership role about something we need to change in our office. Although I was thinking “I’m not really sure I have time,” I realized that if she didn’t think I could do it, she wouldn’t have asked me. I’ll just go ahead and put that on my resume along with other things I have helped change or put in place in our office.
I talked with another office professional very recently on campus. I told her that I admired her and thought of her as a leader and she said something very surprising! She said that she absolutely was not a leader but was a follower. I couldn’t convince her that by doing some of the jobs in our local and state organization and in her own office that she is looked upon as a leader. She helped me achieve something very important so I can’t help thinking of her that way. I realized then that people who think of themselves as followers might have leadership qualities within them but just don’t think of themselves as a leader.
So, when you think about what happens to you in your work, are there things that you are either responsible for leading the way on or are a part of making any changes as you go? These things can happen as you are sitting at your desk doing something a little mundane and then all of a sudden, you think of a better way of doing things. Applying your leadership skills, no matter how big or small, can have a profound effect on you and those around you. If you implement something that helps you do your work better, it might help someone else to do theirs better. Exhibiting your leadership skills can also be shown in the way you answer the phone, the way you greet visitors to your office or in your communication with your co-workers and colleagues across the University system.
The purpose of UNOPA is to provide professional development for our office professionals. I and the other elected officers and directors promise to work toward that purpose. I would like to invite you all to help us reach that goal. If you have an interest in any of our committees and want to help in some way, please let me know. I can help you get connected.
Everyone has a reason why they have joined UNOPA and mine is probably similar to most. I thought that I would make immediate friends by coming to the general meetings. Well, I didn’t actually start making many until I joined a committee. Coming to the general meetings is a good thing but there is so much going on that sometimes it is hard to get enough time to talk for very long with someone and get to know them well. It was scary getting on a committee but it really helped me meet people and working with them started getting me the friendships that I wanted.
Please take time to think about your leadership skills, you all have them, and join in the effort to create the sort of organization you will be proud to be part of. The more we support each other, the more our bosses and campus administrators will support us. We know that we are the base for what happens in our offices, no one can get along without us so let’s lead the way!
I am looking forward to getting to know more of you during the coming year; I can’t wait to get started! Have a great day and good end to the semester!
Jane Schneider, CEOE
2014-2015 UNOPA President