Personal Story of Leadership by a Data Librarian#
What does leadership for research infrastructure roles look like?#
As formal career paths for many research infrastructure roles are currently not yet defined, formal leadership positions are limited and often tied to managing people or budgets. In the ten years I have worked in the open science space in research infrastructure roles (research data librarian might come closest to describing it), I have not formally managed a team, though I hope that I have led and enacted change and hopefully inspired some people along the way to work more openly.
So, how do people in research infrastructure roles lead?
Many of these roles contain a degree of coordination and project management, so our leadership brings people together, facilitates conversations that otherwise might not happen and while we might not be decision makers, we certainly can get others to make decisions and hold them accountable for enacting them.
I have managed a range of services (data repositories, services to support data management planning) working closely with software developers on delivering a smooth service to users. As I prefer decision making by consensus, it often feels more like a collaboration and less like me leading the team and service development.
Many of my leadership inspirations and ways how I acquired skills where not part of my day to day jobs or formal certifications, but communities I joined to grow my professional network. I also often lead on projects that are based around ideas mentioned on Twitter. Not all of them are followed up on, but I have organised events and started collaborations based on others co-leading with me. Learning about the Mozilla Open Leadership principles was life-changing for me. While the program taught me technical skills like how to use GitHub, it also highlighted that thinking about workflows, project contributors and documentation are just as important as the technical skills. It also brought me into the Turing Way core team when it was initially set up.
Addressing my weaknesses#
One of the main skills leaders should have is the ability to understand their weaknesses and actively work on them. They should also bring other people into the space they lead in that might balance out areas of weakness.
I personally struggle with delegating and often just did tasks myself to make sure they are done the way I expected. Joining Open Life Science as a mentor was crucial for me to learn that I can still be helpful to others without taking over. I learned the basics of mentoring and coaching helped me reflect where I can empower colleagues more.
Another important skill to learn is to say “no” and not take on too much. FOMO is definitely an issue for me, but I got better at managing my energy. Mozilla’s resources on personal ecology are a great reflection tool to sustain energy or identify if it is time to step away from certain projects.
A “no” from me is an opportunity for someone else to say yes!
I hope that this case study inspires others to think about their leadership potential, especially if they feel they are not a leader because they are not in a formal leadership position. Often, others see us as leaders when we do not identify with that label yet, thus I encourage anyone to tell the people that inspire you that you appreciate their leadership!
Reading I found helpful:#
This personal story is written by The Turing Way contributor and founding member Patricia Heterich, based on a discussion she led at the Book Dash in May 2022.