At the 2014 annual NACM conference in Scottsdale, AZ, participants of the Fellows leadership seminar received a blank key from Mary McQueen, President of the National Center for State Courts. The key is simple yet distinctive: the neck is blank and has no teeth and the base is sky-blue with the white letters NCSC boldly displayed. Mary suggested that we all carry around the key and use it as a conversation starter for new professionals in court management, or to encourage seasoned managers looking to amp up their skillset and take on a challenge that bolsters the profession of court administration.
For those that have gone through the ICM Fellows program, you know that it is challenging and rigorous. You did the course prerequisites. You participated in an intense three-week (or longer) class. You picked a topic and researched it from one end of the spectrum to the other. You wrote a strong, persuasive paper. And you presented your work and defended it in front of a body of your peers. But your calling as a Fellow did not stop when you got your certification. In fact, upon graduation, your work as a court executive should be the beginning of your Fellows journey.
To be a Fellow is one of the highest honors you can achieve in your career. And the work of a Fellow is much like a locksmith adding teeth to a key. In our profession, however, every Fellow is a locksmith as the work you choose determines the contour of your key.
Your first notch may be implementing the work that was done for your research paper. For others, that first notch is mentoring a subordinate who has demonstrated leadership qualities in the organization. And for many more, your first notch may be supporting our important field and donating your time and energy (and even money) to ICM, NCSC, IACA or NACM.
It does not matter if the notches on your key are subtle or pronounced; what matters is that you put in time and effort that is both meaningful and specific. The notches on every Fellows’ key should look like the blade of a hacksaw, the peaks of a mountain, or both. Fellows are ambassadors of excellence in court administration and every policy or process, new or reengineered, should be treated as an opportunity to improve the judicial system.
As you gain experience and momentum, remember to adhere to the key foundations of leadership: listen, encourage, set a good example, be accountable, make good decisions, be committed and embrace change. Once you have developed a rhythm and a style that consistently produces results, clone it, feed it, and most importantly, share it.
Finally, remember that success is a journey, not a destination. The late Zig Ziglar described life and work quite succinctly when he said, “Your attitude, not your aptitude, will determine your altitude.” As a Fellow, embrace your journey and don’t forget to take your key with you along the way.