Recently I visited another parks and recreation agency in the state of Georgia. It was a very productive trip and I learned some things about best practices and leadership, which is one of the reasons I participate in accreditation visits. On our getaway-day, the parks and recreation director drove us to the airport, and before we had traveled very far he asked me, "do you want to be a director?" While I do, I found myself struggling to answer. I've pondered this question more times than I can count, but for some reason I was put on my heels and started to down-play my desire. I love the role I'm in right now with my current employer; I'm in no hurry to advance; I feel I still have a lot to learn; If it never happens I can live with that. Perhaps I'm not director material. When I finished he said simply, "Well, I think you'd be a great director." I did not expect him to say that. While extremely flattered I was also stunned. In short, I was making excuses for not already being a director.
At 54, I sometimes worry that my opportunity has passed me by. When looking for a new director, I believe most agencies screen applications looking for those with prior director experience. I have about four (4) weeks experience as an interim director - not really the type of time-on-the-job most agencies are looking for in their next leader. I know what I'm good at and I rely on my staff to help me in those areas in which I'm not talented or proficient. After 25 years in the field I know that most of the folks who work for me are smarter, better, and faster than me. I truly love my work family - they get things done and make a difference in the community. I believe I've has a positive impact on my staff and that's what I bring to the table. I've tried to inspire, I've taken risks, I've admitted failure, I've tried again, I've put people first, I've set the tone, and I've shared my passion. I truly believe I know the kind of director I could be.
I've had a fantastic mentor in my director, Bob Johnston. He's even-keeled, very slow to anger (in fact, in the 12 years I've known him I've never seen him angry or raise his voice), and he gets things done. He's also a non-conformist - a creative-type who does things his way. He's very knowledgeable and demonstrates good common sense. He's not a brown-noser. While I'm an extrovert, Bob's an introvert. He knows this and doesn't try to be something he's not. In fact, he expects me to be the front guy most of the time, which to me means his ego is not a major driver in his being the director. Have I had a great role model for what makes a great director? You bet I have!
In her blog article, 4 questions every leader should be able to answer, Alaina Love identifies four (4) questions regarding leadership qualities that really resonated with me: Who am I? What are my passions? How am I impacting others? Where are my edges? I think these are questions every leader, director, CEO, etc., needs to ask themselves, and if you're not there yet now is a great time to begin this self-reflection. Read her article - it's well worth it. Being able to answer her four (4) questions can better help you articulate your response if ever you're asked, "Do you want to be a director?