Jim and Shin Freedman (Jim is an independent consultant, and Shin is Head, Scholarly Resources & Collections, Framingham State University) presented an interactive session on leadership, particularly leadership in libraries. They pointed out that many librarians tend to stay away from the word “leadership” and wondered why. They noted that we have never talked about leadership as a professional association name. Only in 2008 was LAMA changed to LLAMA (Library Leadership Administration and Management Association).
What is a leader? There are many definitions. Members of the audience were asked to indicate the characteristics of a leader; some of the responses were manager, visionary, guide, forward-thinking, developer, listener, inspirer, facilitator, and strategic. Is there anything special about a library leader? They can be an advocate, collaborative, supportive, efficient, logical, or mentor.
Some common leadership myths are:
- Leadership is a rare and unusual talent,
- Leaders are tall white men,
- Leaders are always charismatic,
- Leaders are professionals,
- Leaders occupy positions of authority,
- Leaders are the only ones that drive change, and
- Leaders have the answers.
In fact, leadership is the ability to influence the behavior of others to achieve organizational goals. It is a bundle of skills and competencies. Someone who has the title of leader may not a real leader.
Good leaders delegate, trust, inspire respect, are interested in people but don’t micromanage, listen broadly and well, ask good questions, develop the skills of the people they lead, and develop other leaders.
Differences between good and bad leaders: You can learn from both: what to do and what not to do.There is currently a tremendous opportunity for leadership in libraries because of an unprecedented number of impending retirements of managers of libraries. Succession planning, mentorship, and organizational design are new terms in the library world. What is happening in the outside world is moving into the library world. We must be intentional about creating opportunities for new leaders and manage our careers as well as our jobs.
Mentors and coaches share what they know with others. Mentoring is non-supervisory and non-evaluative, but is a long-term relationship entered into freely by both parties. Coaching means to teach something to someone else; it is short-term based. Mentors should be as stimulated as the mentees as they explore what is available to them in their institution or their librarianship discipline. It is important to learn how to communicate better. Everyone has the potential to become a leader: develop yourself and move forward.
Here are 7 stages of leadership development:
- Prepare for your journey and do serious self-assessment.
- Know yourself and your E.I. (emotional intelligence) and reflect on how good you are at managing yourself.
- Develop a vision (where you want to go) and strategy (how to get there). Take the time to write it down.
- Intend to lead and seek out opportunities.
- You can not do this by yourself; communicate your vision to other people. They need to help you get where you want to go.
- Correct through reflecting.
- Reach your destination and reset your vision.
Don Hawkins blogs about conferences for Information Today and Against The Grain. He also maintains the Conference Calendar on the Information Today website and is the Editor of Personal Archiving: Preserving Our Digital Heritage, published by Information Today in 2013, and Co-Editor of Public Knowledge: Access and Benefits, published by Information Today in 2016. He received his Ph.D. degree from the University of California, Berkeley, and has worked in the information industry for over 45 years.