Every June, for one muggy week, a group of twenty-five archivists gathers for the Archives Leadership Institute (ALI). This innovative leadership training program is funded by the National Historic Publications and Records Commission. For the first five years of its existence, ALI was hosted by the University of Wisconsin - Madison. For the last two years (and in 2015) it's been hosted by Luther College in Decorah, Iowa. The mission of ALI is to "provide advanced training for 25 archival leaders each year, giving them the knowledge and tools to transform the profession in practice, theory and attitude." This done through cohort based training which emphasizes the collaborative nature of modern leadership and stresses building connections among leaders as much as building individual skills.
I was lucky enough to be accepted into the 2010 cohort and found the experience invaluable. In addition to augmenting existing leadership skills, the experience brought me into contact with archivist leaders from around the country and built relationships that have been invaluable in advancing Multnomah County's archival program. From simple technical questions to large strategic ones, having a smart group of 25 colleagues that you know and trust is a wonderful resource for any archivist and the program they work in.
In 2011, I was asked to serve on the steering committee for ALI's Luther College incarnation. This has allowed me to serve as a mentor to the 2013-2015 cohorts. We have endured the high ropes course, tornado warnings, and long hard-working days together. We have also gotten to know each other -- making personal and professional connections that make each of us, and our respective programs, stronger.
Leadership is not based on individuals charging forward, urging everyone else to follow. Successful leadership is based on relationship, trust, and shared vision. It is a group activity, not a personal one. In many ways, ALI allows all of its participants to see our collective work. We archivists are preserving the record, as best we can, of the human endeavor. By building a group of connected, collaborative leaders, we help ensure that that record is as complete, diverse, and useful as possible. We lead together and by doing so achieve so much more than we could ever do on our own.