Sunday, 30 March 2008

Aurora - 12 months on

Ok, more than 12 months have now passed, but the post has been processing mentally for quite some time and I do think it is now time to put it on paper.

Aurora was an experience. It was both the personal and professional experience of a lifetime. It was an experience where future leaders analysed their leadership skills, achievements and perceptions of the profession as a whole. The Aurora Leadership Institute's mission is to help future leaders maximise their potential and position them to be effective voices in our profession.

Although I was looking forward to attending Aurora, my feelings were mixed with apprehension as I was unsure what to expect. How closely scrutinised would all the participants be? Would my performance as a leader come under close scrutiny and be found lacking? I went to Aurora with an open mind, believing this would be the best way to approach such a learning experience.

I explored the changes that are inherent in our professions, and there was the realisation that change needs to come from the top, whether it is for the library or for the profession - we cannot just accept the status quo. Aurora provided affirmation of my beliefs on what leadership should be about and that a stronger, more united approach to workforce planning is needed.

One thing for certain is that Aurora is not a 'quick fix' and doesn't perform miracles overnight. It's a huge learning curve - the processing required to absorb the information is amazing and not, as I just said, fast. The year has gone rapidly and I have achieved many things professionally that I am sure I would have achieved regardless of whether I attended Aurora or not, but I am sure I would have viewed things in a different light had I not attended. The ability to take a 'helicopter view' has been invaluable - being able to understand and think about what I am doing strategically in my position has helped me go forward and also realise that I was not so 'new' that what I was doing was not leadership. Aurora helped me realise that what I saw was not necessarily what others saw - in my position, I see a different picture to my staff and I need to apply my vision and thus influence my colleagues and staff to work towards higher aspirations for my workplace. It was extremely frustrating for me when others did not see the outcomes as clearly as I could. Now I know that this is not my impatience to get there, but is just that not everyone has a bird's eye view. I realised that leaders do lead and sometimes need to have the freedom and confidence to make a final decision. Most importantly for me, I also realised that learning to accept failure is a critical part of professional as well as personal growth.

An important step for me during Aurora was the realisation that I didn't have to be everything to everyone professionally and I made a conscious decision to downsize my committee involvement. During that time I was on six committees and as I took on more roles I didn't want to let other committee members down. I still didn't want to leave any in the lurch, so I drew up a plan and worked out when the best time would be to 'release' myself from various committees without letting any down. Over the next six months I resigned or finished my term with four committees, giving me time to focus more on my two remaining ones - aliaVIC and NLS4 (shameless plug - this promises to be THE event for the 2008!).

I thank ALIA who contributed $4000 towards the Institute fee (I was the recipient of the inaugural ALIA Aurora Scholarship), and also the State Library of Victoria, who, under its Statewide Public Library Development Projects, generously funded the difference between the Scholarship and Institute fees, as well as my airfares to and from Canberra.

Aurora was an amazing experience. Through my involvement I have made friendships and alliances spreading over Australia and New Zealand – an invaluable network that I continuously use for professional and personal support, to sound out new ideas and discuss issues. The Institute allowed me to look at opportunities and threats from a global perspective, instead of just in my backyard, and challenged me to continually aspire to do the best that I can. The inspiration and encouragement I received from all participants and mentors was incredible and I have enjoyed watching the paths that A10 Aurorans have taken over the last 12 months.