Those of you who enjoyed Curious Girl's last observation about what makes a good department chair might be interested in this conversation, which took place in the family bathroom at the pool:
Curious Girl: I don't like this bathroom (gesturing at puddle on floor and various stray pieces of toilet paper, the kind that always appear in pool bathrooms on busy summer days). It's too litter-y.
Me: Well, lots of people are here today, and it's hard to keep a bathroom clean when so many people are using it. (I notice she's done with her business.) Here, dry your hands before you pull down the toilet paper--that way it won't shred in your hands like it did last time.
Curious Girl: Mama, that is such a good idea you had! What a good idea! That is because you are an apartment chair. You are right about everything. You are right all the time, because you are an apartment chair.
Me: Actually, sweetie, I'm not right all the time. I make mistakes. I just try to learn from them and do better next time.
CG: You are the best apartment chair!
So what does make a good department chair? It's certainly not the ability to be right all the time! I've spent some time this summer doing some hard writing--a few documents that had to be written regarding some issues that some of us didn't handle very well (in some cases, that us is me; in other cases, that us is other people; in some cases, the us is a combination of me and other people). The documents I've written are all different (not to mention unbloggable in their specificity), but all attempt to look ahead and imagine ways that similar future situations might be handled with different effects. One reason I am a good chair, I think, is my ability to step back from situations (even those where I'm part of a mess up) and imagine ways they could play out differently. Good chairs need to be able to see administrative and personnel possibilities, thinking about different ways to move groups toward a goal. Good chairs need to advocate for their department and their colleagues--which means sometimes, pushing people, and other times, getting out of the way.
It certainly doesn't mean being right all the time, but I trust it's OK that I'm rather tickled at the impression Curious Girl has developed about my acumen. And it's true, a good apartment chair does have the opportunity to introduce little tweaks to the system that just might keep things from shredding during use. Not such a bad outcome for a day.