Greg McKeown was recently on NPR talking about the importance of prioritizing in leadership. He’s been obsessed with the question of why capable people plateau in their fields, and he’s decided that the answer is: success. Success leads to increased opportunity. Increased opportunities lead to diluted focus. Ultimately, he says, “Success can become a catalyst for failure because it leads to the undisciplined pursuit of more.”
After spending a couple of months helping to draft our strategic plan, spending a summer helping to update our mission, vision, and values, and having ongoing conversations about sustainability within my department, McKeown’s ideas seem at once brilliant and impossible.
The fact is, we have been successful, and this has lead to increased opportunities. And personally, my work has broadened in focus from direct reference and instruction about library resources to a myriad of activities aimed at improving teaching and learning on campus as it relates to information literacy. What’s more, I think this broader focus is far healthier and more realistic if my goal is to play a role in graduating information literate seniors (I only ever get to teach a tiny percentage of students, so more systemic information literacy infusions are necessary to my goal). But depending on how I look at it, perhaps I do have a pretty singular goal (graduating information literate seniors), or perhaps I have a plethora of great opportunities that dilute my focus. Where up the hierarchy from the very granular to the very high-level should these focused goals exist?