The Age Gap in Leadership

Now that our new Membership Coordinator (and my direct supervisor) has settled in, productivity has shifted immensely with her leadership. Katie previously worked in membership for the VMFA, so I was happily surprised by her experience after such a turbulent transition of Membership Coordinators. After I gladly relinquished the desk I had been using in the interim, Katie immediately took to reorganizing and purging all of the files I had been frustrated with, yet reluctant to throw away. Her prior knowledge of a much larger membership program gave her the confidence to determine what is and is not necessary to retain. We’ve already set new procedures in record-keeping in her first two weeks, and I’ve worked closely with her as she transitions Bens’ work into her own system. 


Katie’s younger age and gender have also shifted the dynamic of the office. As the museum expands, they’ve been hiring younger employees. This has tilted the average age of the office, which has counteracted the frequently used phrase, “but we’ve always done it that way”. With Katie here, we are no longer doing it “that way”, but more efficiently. There are still some things that Katie cannot change, due to the museum’s generally older audience. Frankly, her age has played more of a factor than gender when it comes to leadership dynamics within the office. She always has a witty response to our president’s jokes, which he learned from his days at VMI in the late 1960s. Her understanding of younger generations has helped immensely when working with our junior executive board. Initially, I saw the museum as a very “Virginia” workplace, where more seems to be accomplished after a smoke break than a formal meeting. However, the age gap no longer plays such a large role in the organizational structure of the museum and its departments. Now that the museum’s staff is skewed younger, I’ve been introduced as a colleague, rather than an intern. As we prepared food and drinks for the summer board meeting last week, the director joked that that was the first and last time I would be asked to make coffee during my internship. I’ve also been invited to more and more meetings as I learn new skills, which has broadened my understanding of the museum’s function immensely. 


Now that I have a direct supervisor again, the nature of collaboration and achievement in the office has changed as well. As much as I appreciate how much trust the older members of the department placed in us, I often felt as though I was just taking shots in the dark. The Director is always incredibly supportive, but I was definitely doing way more than I expected and learning faster than I thought myself capable. Now, with a younger Membership Coordinator, we interns have a more easily approachable, direct supervisor who is willing to delegate and accomplish tasks with an organized efficiency, rather than trying to make sure that everything gets done, no matter the method. Now that things have settled after Katie’s first two weeks, the summer board meetings, and the end of our last major appeal, we’ve had the time to be diligent with our methods and organization. Katie has successfully taken responsibility for most of what I had been doing in the past five weeks, so now our time as interns is mostly focused on streamlining our routine tasks so that Katie (or a fall semester intern) can easily pick up where we left off once the summer is over. With so much transition, it only seemed natural to ensure that all of our procedures could be easily understood by any future additions to the development office.