Being Leaderly in Team Environments

A recent interview of UX expert Leah Buley by Jared Spool on Spoolcast included an interesting discussion of leadership and collaboration. Buley was expanding on ideas she covers in her book, The User Experience Team of One. In the interview, Buley talks about how it took her a while to get comfortable becoming that person that might get up in a meeting and start drawing on a whiteboard or using post-it notes to help move the conversation along. When you do that kind of thing, she notes, you command attention but in a helpful way that she calls “leaderly.”

I really like the sound of that word, as it seems more collaborative and non-egotistical than saying you are “showing leadership” in a meeting. It may be a subtle distinction that only works for me, but that’s fine. At my library, I’m the only person with UX as part of my job title and core job focus (which isn’t to say that my colleagues don’t do UX work, as they do but may not think of it as such). In meetings for various projects–some local to my college’s library and some for projects that are shared across the system of CUNY libraries–I find myself wanting to contribute in ways that draw on my UX perspective. The last thing I want to do when I speak up is make it sound as though I am the expert that all must bow down to. I think if in my mind I frame my efforts as being “leaderly” I’m more comfortable with speaking up or contributing in other ways.