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Leadership Matters at Every Level

by Margaret James, Educator, Milwaukee Public Museum on

I wasn’t the typical student in the most recent Leadership and Administration in History Organizations online course through AASLH. I’m not a director of a museum. I’m not a vice-president. I’m not even a manager. My museum doesn’t remotely qualify as small, nor is does it deal solely in history content. But my status as an educator at a mid-size natural history museum only encouraged a more engaged and active participation in the course, and offered me a unique takeaway. The Leadership and Administration in History Organizations (LAHO) course drew directors and leaders from history organizations across the country, all who wanted to learn more about the inner workings of their own organizations and how to better serve their boards, staff, volunteers, and communities.

31phccinM9L._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_We gathered online nine weeks ago, guided by experienced museum leader Anne W. Ackerson. Anne guided us through online discussions, weekly assignments, and a final project that allowed us to investigate our organizations’ foundations, examine internal policies, and understand the importance of our roles as leaders. The course was structured to lead us through administrative processes from the ground up; we began with foundational documents, defining non-profit status and goals, slowly moved through board development, governance, guiding mission statements and ended by planning for the future with strategic plan thinking.

I was thrilled to be a part of this course and learning alongside museum professionals in different stages in their careers, in different types of organizations, and all facing similar challenges. This course allowed all participants to learn from each other’s experiences and to share successes and failures. The weekly online chats with my course mates helped me understand the unique positions that so many museums find themselves in and reinforced to me that museum professionals are some of the most willing to share. Because of my position within my museum, I didn’t realize the scope and depth of many of our organizational and governing policies. During the LAHO course, I was empowered to get up close and personal to the foundational principles of my museum. This course equipped me with the tools to interrogate our mission statement, identifying ways we excel at fulfilling it and places where we can uphold it more. But possibly the most important takeaway I got from the eight weeks of Anne’s guidance was the role I play within my organization. No, I am not a director, vice president, or manager, but I can lead from where I am. And I can encourage my peers to do the same.

F7OLW2SG0C (1)No matter your position within an organization, no matter if you are in a large natural history museum, or a small history museum, give yourself the opportunity to take this, or a similar, course. You may be like me and not see the immediate necessity of staff and board relations or human resources policies, but I guarantee that you’ll leave the course better equipped to understand your museum and the field we all work in. You’ll change your thinking to reflect bigger, more long-term impacts of programming, and find ways to challenge past practices. No matter your experience you’ll leave this course empowered to be a better professional.

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Leadership and Administration in History Organizations was part of the AASLH Continuing Education Series, a roster of unique and recurring webinars, online courses, and onsite workshops designed for history professionals. Our next Leadership and Administration online course will be held from Jan. 9- Mar 6. 2017. Registration is now open. is Project Management for History Professionals. Visit our Event Calendar for a full list of upcoming continuing education opportunities.

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