SHA Made Me the Kind of Leader I Strive to Be
My decision to attend Developing History Leaders @SHA was the culmination of about a 6 or 7 year journey. The program seemed to offer all of the aspects of training that were components of my position very shortly after I started in it…then titled Chief Curator of [Indiana] Historic Sites. It was then still located at Colonial Williamsburg.
With 2 very small children, I just didn’t feel I could be away that long and the financial situation of my institution wasn’t going to allow me the chance to attend. Could I afford to send myself? See above about 2 very small children… Keeping SHA in the back of my mind (and looking longingly at the announcement every year thereafter), I was thrilled to learn of the program’s move to Indianapolis and the Indiana Historical Society in 2004. I applied in 2005 and was accepted after talking to a 2004 grad who is a close colleague and her encouragement/endorsement.
It was the best career decision (after changing my major in college) that I’ve ever made. I realized after attending SHA that I could be a leader in a quiet, background way to help my organization move forward dramatically. I also knew that I didn’t want to be the CEO. Before SHA, I’d been in a leadership position, but lacked the confidence in what I was doing to be able to lead effectively and because of this, it kept me from actively participating.
SHA truly changed all of that for me. I got it…I had many tools from which to pull from (which I still do everyday) and furthermore, if I had questions, I had a network of very smart, very engaged individuals in my field from which to draw information, ask for assistance, or look for a referral.
Shortly after I returned from SHA, I took part in a very important strategic planning effort for my institution (that’s it on the left) and felt as if I’d contributed, and been listened to, in a way that had never occurred before.
One of the last activities that we did as a class was to list the characteristics of a Good Leader. Here is our list, in priority order:
- Communication skills, especially listening
- Big picture thinker
These are posted in front of me on my wall, right above my computer. I’ve quietly added the following to Humility for my own personal encouragement…
and confidence including the wisdom to know when each should be called upon
It reminds me of the kind of leader that I strive to be, everyday.
If you desire a life-changing experience in your own leadership journey, consider applying to SHA.
Laura Minzes (SHA ’05) is Deputy Director of Site Structures and Land at Indiana State Museums and Historic Sites. She recently served as chair of the SHA Alumni Committee.