Aug. 8, 2022

What I Learned at Harvard (Challenge 27)

What I Learned at Harvard (Challenge 27)

From July 24th to 29th, I had one of the most amazing professional experiences of my entire life at the Leadership Institute for Academic Librarians at the Harvard Graduate School of Education.  And I kept a journal of sorts, in the form of livestreams and posts I shared with the Kind Leadership Challenge Facebook community. Today I’ll be revisiting those recordings to share what I learned, and how you can implement those lessons in your own leadership practice as well.   
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From July 24th to 29th, I had one of the most amazing professional experiences of my entire life at the leadership Institute for academic librarians at Harvard university's graduate school of education. And I kept a journal of sorts in the form of live streams and posts that I shared with the kind leadership challenge community today, I'll be revisiting those recordings to share what I learned and how you can implement those lessons in your own leadership practice. 

Welcome to the kind leadership challenge where I empower educational and library leaders like you to build a better world. I'm Sarah Clark, founder of the kind leadership Guild. My PhD in higher ed leadership, my experience coaching consulting, and presenting to library leaders all over the world and a career working in academic libraries from the front desk to the Dean's office, taught me that leaders can effectively humanely and collaboratively transform their organizations without burning out.

And now I'm sharing those same lessons with. Here's the deal you give me the next few minutes of your day in return. I'll share short stories and simple challenges designed to heal yourself and your school or library. So you can get back to making the impact you wish to see in your community. By embarking on each week's challenge on your own or in our private Facebook community. You and your team will begin growing humanely, managing effectively and partnering collaboratively and your school or library will build a more informed and educated world along the way.   

how can you successfully navigate challenging conversations so that you can transform your team culture and acquire the resources you need to thrive? Mastering challenging conversations is a free guide to applying the principles of kind leadership to planning, conducting, and moving forward from any challenging leadership convers. Just go to kind leadership,, enter your email and start having the conversations that will impact your community for the better.

Oh. And you'll be entered in a free drawing, which I'll share at the end of the episode.

Greetings kind Leaders. I am sitting in a hotel room in Boston, Massachusetts, just off of Harvard square. And. I am about to head out to my first full day of. The leadership Institute for academic librarians. Lovingly. called LIAL here at the Harvard graduate school of education. And while honoring our agreement. As a Institute to keep all discussions. Inside the Institute confidential. Over the next few. days I am going to record and share my thoughts, my experiences and my lessons learned.

In this podcast, diary of sorts. So  come along as I share my time this week at the Harvard. Leadership Institute for academic  📍 librarians.

our first session. That first day was led by Joan Gallos. Co-author with Lee Bowman of reframing academic leadership. That book itself is a follow on book from Bowman and Terrence deals. Reframing, organiz. Which has been a classic in the field of leadership studies and has informed both my professional practice and my work here at the kind leadership Guild.

But that doesn't mean I didn't learn a lot that first day.
Greetings kind leaders, Sarah here reporting from the Cambridge common in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

Today we have been, , going through or in my case reviewing, , the four frames  of organizational leadership. I have a lot of familiarity with the four frames, I actually taught them in a, library leadership course, I taught at OU school of library and information studies. , back about five years ago, I'd actually reviewed them and taken the little assessment that you take at the first of it, about five years ago, about the time I started leading at my current university and I took it again today and it was interesting to see how I had changed.

, for those who are familiar, there are four frames in the model, , structural, , human resources, political and symbolic. And I've always been very strong in symbolic, , five years ago when I first took the test, my second highest score,

, structural, , which is not uncommon amongst librarians.  I, took it again today. Uh, we all took it as kind of our, part of our, um, session today. And I discovered that in the past five years, my scores had shifted. my strongest score is still symbolic.

I have a feeling that will always be true.  Anybody who runs a podcast called the kind leadership challenge probably has a lot of symbolic visionary traits in their leadership practice. But my second, most, um, strong trait is now human resources, which was kind of fair to Midland five years ago.

And I think a lot of that is the journey that I took as a leader, , in, , the last five years in my first Dean role, all the things I learned that well eventually led me to start this podcast. So as I kind of show you the view here in Cambridge, Massachusetts on the common. Had to walk back through the drizzle to, uh, go to our afternoon session.

, I wanna leave you with a thought, how has your leadership perspective and how has your leadership practice changed in the last two years are areas that you thought your were weaknesses for you now become strengths. Are there areas that were strengths that maybe you've taken for granted that you need to amp up a little bit more?

, I'm curious to hear your. And, , I will probably be back again throughout the week with my thoughts. So reporting from the Cambridge common in beautiful Cambridge, Massachusetts.  Stay kind now.
the next day, we stepped away from theory a little bit and shifted more towards practice with a session led by the amazing Alexia Hudson ward. We talked a lot about the intersection of authentic leadership and the issues of diversity, equity and inclusion and well I'll let myself from two weeks ago, share my thoughts.
Greetings kind leaders back at the Cambridge, common standing in front of the obligatory massive Memorial and statue to a Lincoln and the civil war debt from the Cambridge area.  yesterday's session on the four frames of organizational leadership  was followed up today by an amazing session on vulnerability in leadership and how that ties into DEI issues with the equally amazing Alexia Hudson Ward.

This has been a great few days and I wanna share a session we had this morning or a part of her session. Uh, we all wrote down on Post Its things we were afraid about being vulnerable about in our leadership practice. I found that I was afraid of being myself for two reasons. One, because I was afraid that other people would see me as not strong enough to lead. The other reason I was scared to be myself is because I thought people would think I was too strong and intimidating.

Now I ain't that an interesting combo. It's given me a lot to reflect on, let's say that. And the other thing I can say while, respecting  our rules around privacy and confidentiality, is that I am in a room with some of the most accomplished and impressive and just amazing library leaders in America, really in the world. And I'm starting to feel more comfortable putting myself in with that ranking. And yet  they struggle with the. You know, issues of budget cuts and stuff, drama and people not coming together and bureaucracies being bureaucratic.

It really doesn't matter if you're librarian at a tiny little public regional university or you're doing it at, you know, Harvard or Penn state or some massive institution. The challenges are same. And I think the answers are the same as well, which is giving yourself grace and giving yourself kindness and giving your, your team that same grace and kindness and figuring out how to grow humanely, manage effectively and partner collaboratively to get all that done.

And, uh, for some reason, I just thought I needed to come out to the statue of a Lincoln who as I, I know a lot of us. No based his own internal demons and his own feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty, and somehow in the middle of all that, you know, changed our country, not, you know, not perfectly but more perfect, I think we can all safely say.

So I gotta get back to it.  Stay kind Now.
 One of the things that doesn't get captured in my musings from that week at Harvard is the importance of the connections I made with my fellow library leaders. The safe space of the Institute allowed all of us to be much more honest and vulnerable about our leadership C.

And those authentic connections made for some fun times as well. One night I slurped oysters on the half shell with another member of my small discussion group. And another evening, a bunch of us went to see the red Sox, but I also connected with myself and with my own leadership goals, being an introvert at heart, there was one evening where I had to honor my own need for rest and reflection.

I skipped my audio journal stayed in, got dinner delivered and watched mindless YouTubes all evening while knitting a sock. It was exactly what I needed. And I was back at Harvard the next day, raring to go, as you can hear in this diary entry where I talk more about the importance of connections.
Greetings kind leaders. It's Sarah, again, I'm reporting from the, courtyard quad open space, whatever of the, Harvard Radcliffe, Institute. Um, I've been thinking a lot today about connections and conversations, cuz they've been coming up a lot in our, discussions and in our sessions this week.  You are only as effective as a leader, as the connections you make.

A lot of that stuff is having conversation. It's making friends, it's finding out what you have in common, how you can support each other and building those relationships before you need them before you have to have them. But also, I think we all always need them. Even if there isn't some specific ask, you need to make some stakeholder, we all need to feel connected to our organization. We all need to feel connected to a bigger mission that our school or library supports. And I think step one of that is having more conversations and that's what I've been learning.

And that's what I'm going to make a resolution to put myself to work on,  when I return from Harvard. So that may seem a little mundane of a realization to have to go off to a Ivy league college for a week to have, but there you have it. I'm gonna enjoy the sunlight a little bit more before I have to go back in to our next session, or I should say, get to go into our next session, cuz this has been amazing experience.

If you can go, if you are you or your organization has the resources and you are in the academic library. You've got to put this on your bucket list. I've been wanting to go for years. And so far it has met if not exceeded all of my expectations I've had since I first heard about it, I don't know, 15, 16 years ago. So that's all I have to say. afternoon, and stay kind now.
 At the end of the week, I found myself reflecting on everything I'd experienced and how I wanted to incorporate it into my leadership practice and my leadership teaching moving forward. I opened up my LinkedIn app and kind of just started typing. Here's what came out more or less.
What An amazing week at Harvard graduate school of education's leadership Institute for academic libraries! It was inspiring, both for improvements I can make in my own leadership practice, and for showing me what could be possible as the kind leadership Guild and its projects grow.

My 15 year journey to build my resume and successfully lobby an institution for funds to be able to attend makes me very aware of the privilege that got me to LIAL, in several senses of the word privilege. And as I sat in many of our sessions, I had the same thought over and over: every educational leader in the world should be able to access an experience like this.

If nothing else, my goal for the kind leadership Guild is clearer than ever. I will teach higher ed and library leaders how to make the decisions that will make the impact we wish to see in our organizations. And I will continue to create resources and programs that make sense for every budget and every schedule from the kind leadership challenge podcast to the forthcoming kind leadership academy. I hope you join me on the journey
And with that, I want to thank you for listening to this special expanded episode of the kind leadership challenge. And I hope you're inspired to incorporate some of my lessons from Harvard into your own leadership. Also, I wanna let you know that on September 5th, I'll be awarding a copy   of Joan Gallos' and Lee Bolman's reframing academic leadership to a random member of my email list which you can join by downloading the mastering challenging conversations guide at

Thanks for listening and for taking action to become a kinder leader. If you found this week's episode, insightful, give the show a rating, a review, or even better tell your fellow leaders never doubt that day by day. You are building a better world, even if you can't see it yet. So until next time, stay kind now.

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