Lead from the middle, whoever you are, you have power of some kind, because you as a person have skills, values, and abilities that have meaning. You just have to leverage them.Lead by words. Sharing an enticing vision is, well, enticing. People follow dreams, because we want to believe that Yes We Can.Lead by doing. If you can provide proof of a concept, you will earn respect. People respect accomplishment.Lead by supporting others. The leader isn’t always the person with the idea, but often is the person who makes it possible for the ideas of others to be realized. You are your team.Lead by creating the environment. One framework that matters is a workplace culture that allows for change, growth, and success, and a leader can cultivate and build that.Lead by recognizing others. Acknowledgement of what people have accomplished, and creating value around accomplishment through your choices of recognition, is leadership.Most of all, they wanted everyone to realize that leadership can be fierce, or kind, or collaborative, or maverick. Leadership can be collaborative or individual, quiet or soapbox-y. Leadership comes from you, whoever you are.
And so. The people I talked to are all right. Leaders can be any of those things, or all of those things, or some of those things. So if you want to lead, I would suggest that your first step is knowing yourself. Where are you in the spectrum of leaders?The answer to that doesn’t really matter to the outside world, but it matters in that you have to know your strengths if you’re going to use them well. You also need to know your weaknesses so you can either avoid or bolster them, or, more practically, find a good team to do the parts you suck at.
So, I’ve talked about what leadership is, and what leaders do, and why that matters.You’ve thought about what you admire, who are are in your organization, and what your leadership strengths are.Now I want to talk about two intangibles of leadership that I hope are hallmarks for the future of librarianship: Trust and transparency.John Glenn went from that hallway onto a spacecraft that, looking back, appears to be made of tin foil and transistors. Hundreds – thousands – of people worked on those craft, made and fixed mistakes, and contribued to the project. They had good managers, and good leaders. And the astronauts trusted that the whole thing was going to fly. And it worked.
Our libraries also work on trust. Healthy ones, anyway. Because, here’s the thing: Leading only works if people follow you. People will follow you if they fear you, but punishment is a miserable motivator. People will also follow you if they respect you. And what is respect if not trust that your track record will hold true? Even if you have an acknowledged authority, a proven track record, and a strong believable vision, if the staff isn’t on board, you’re screwed. And to get them on board you need their trust – either in you, or in the vision. In short: Don’t be an asshole, and model the behavior you would hope for in your team.
And so how do people know all those things that allow them to trust you?Because you show them.That’s the king and queen of Belgium in the third row up, to the right of the pointing guy, watching one of the apollo launches. I know that conspiracy theorists still say the moon landing was a hoax but by and large the world trusts that we did it. Part of that trust is because we showed people. We invited them to watch. We broadcast it. We made it available. Why do otherwise professionally?
In many, and I would argue most, cases we have nothing ot lose by sharing. Budgets? Are they a secret? WHY? What part of your process is so secret you can’t share it? Are you ashamed of it? What would happen if you told people how you allocate money? Is it possible that if they understood how you make decisions, they might trust you more?After the first six months in my current position I told my team that my operating principle is that I will say yes unless I must say no, and that I define “must” by considering our mission, our goals, and our resources. And I’ve been consistent in that. They trust me. And they expect a yes, but respect a no, because they understand how I make those decisions. Someone, upon hearing that, once asked me if I ddin’t think that was a misstep – telling the team. Because now that they knew how I made decisions, they could manipulate the system, and thus me. I just stared at them. If my decision-making process is something I’m proud of, and it’s based on mission, goals, and resources, how precisely would someone manipulate me? If their idea is good, I say yes. If their idea compels me to say no, I say no. Knowing that doesn’t give them some strange power over me, it just makes them more comfortable asking me for things because they know how I will treat them when they do.Of course, there are some areas where perhaps people don’t need to know. Legal ones like personnel issues. Things waaaay outside their pay grade that will just confuse the issue. My internal emotional reaction to criers, liars, and time wasters. How often I censor my language. But nearly everything else is fair game.
But not all worlds are perfect worlds. So let’s open this up to discussion and questions.
the intangible and necessary something leadership:
opening exercise: know your context Think about your favorite boss. Write down three traits you most admired in that person.
leadership and management Management != Leadership Not all leaders are managers Not all managers are leaders Both are critically important
exercise step 2: know your context better The person you admired in step 1: Based on the traits you wrote down, were they a leader, or a manager, or both? Show of hands for each Large-group discussion of results
facets of library leadership coherent approach to personnel strategic vision change management decision-making paradigms morale and attitude management external presentation and representation
exercise step 3: know yourself in the group this will be kept private. find the yellow sheet in your packet Individualism-collectivism inventory you will take the test, score your own, and are not obligated to share the results.
you can… lead from the middle or the top lead by words lead by doing lead by supporting others lead by creating the environment lead by recognizing others
who are you as a leader? Lots of formal theories of leadership. Not really relevant: You need to know yourself. Where are your strengths? Where are your weaknesses?
exercise step 4: know yourself as a leader this will be kept private. find the blue sheet in your packet transformational leadership inventory you will take the test, score your own, and are not obligated to share the results.
Trust: it doesn’t matter how good you are if no one follows your lead. respect for institutional history compassion bravery coaching and mentoring winning one for the team acknowledging the team sharing information acting with integrity communicating with honesty fitting with existing values being fair consistency
how transparent is too transparent? what are you hiding, and do you know why? if you know why, is it a good reason, or fear? consider carefully and define the things that people actually DON’T need to know, rather than what they DO.