Leaders are confident. Not arrogant. Not bullies riding roughshod over others, just confident. They trust themselves and, while they listen to others, they don’t constantly second guess their decisions.
Confidence is a natural part of leadership. Who would follow someone who was uncertain and continually thought, “Well maybe we should do it this way instead?” This doesn’t mean good leaders don’t alter their course or tweak a plan. However, they do it in a well-thought out reasoned way.
Since I advocate that leading is not an option but a job requirement for school librarians, I have come to recognize developing confidence is a necessary prelude to becoming a leader. Leadership seems a difficult challenge for many and idea that you can become confident seems equally remote. If you are in that situation, I have some suggestions.
In this context, it means dress like a leader. People react to visual messages before they hear the verbal ones. See how teacher and administrators dress and emulate them. You don’t have to go over the top, but avoid clothes that don’t fit well or send a conflicting message.
Anyone who has worked in an elementary school is aware of the different building climate on “picture day.” Students dress up and without anyone saying anything their behavior improves and becomes more orderly. Dressing up for a prom sets the tone making it a special day. We all dress for a dinner at a fine restaurant.
Clothes affect how we think about ourselves and how we act. For those who aren’t confident, dressing as though you are helps you “fake it till you make it.”
Speak with Confidence
You might not know where to begin with this, but there is an easy first step. Monitor how you end a sentence when expressing an idea. Does your voice go up as though you are asking a question? This speech pattern has become common particularly with women and girls. It implies you are uncertain about what you are saying.
Become familiar with educational and library issues. AASL’s and your state association’s web page report on these. They give background information. From there you can pick up the language in use. Talk to a mirror at home about these topics. When you speak without too many pauses, needing time to re-check the information, you are ready to share your “expert” opinion on the issues. And you will sound confident.
Confident people are optimistic. The current climate in most schools has caused even those who aren’t pessimists by nature to develop a negative outlook. Search for the positives. This doesn’t mean be a Pollyanna who sees life only through rose-colored glasses. Being realistic is important. But remember nothing in life stays constant. You don’t have to be in education too long before you realize change is always happening.
For example, you can point out that the stresses caused by Common Core and PARCC testing has roused parents. They are now working with teachers and are putting pressure on districts and the state to make changes. Note that ESSA has been passed and this will make a difference in the educational landscape. While the shift will probably cause additional stress, you will be there to help them adapt and work through them. And since you have been on the AASL and your state association website, you will be current with where ESSA is and where it’ going.
Adjust your attitude. Whether or not you are a person who likes affirmations, start each day with a positive thought. Think of seeing a teacher or a class you like to work with. Focus on the parts of your job that you love. Yes, there will be incidents that pull you off, but just get back to why you became a librarian.
This sounds counter-intuitive, but remember confident people listen to others. It’s how you ask that makes the difference. Instead of saying, “I am supposed to do this, but I have no idea what to do,” say, “I am working on this and would like you input as I value your opinion,”
Check with your PLN. Librarians are an incredibly helpful, supportive group. Ask for suggestions and opinions (we have some great conversations on the School Librarian’s Workshop Facebook page!). You will get a vast amount of valuable assistance. In turn, be ready to help others. It will build your confidence.
One final piece of advice. Smile – and mean it. It goes a long way to projecting confidence.