Talk for ALIA Sydney on library leadership


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Short talk on management and leadership as a career in libraries. Observations from my own career on what I've learnt along the way.

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Talk for ALIA Sydney on library leadership

  1. 1. My weird career Where & when What I learned about leadership @malboothI used these slides during a 10 minute talk I gave to about 50 librarians from ALIA Sydney on12 easy steps to library management.These are just my observations and recollections. They are not meant to be a roadmap foreveryone.It is based on my own career and as I said on the night what I’ve done is quickly run throughmy major career moves noting what I can remember learning from each. With each of thosemoves I’ve provided rough dates so you can see the chronological progression, and I’ve alsonumbered everything for those who like to know how many steps left in the 12.Here we go then, mind the step . . .
  2. 2. Part One Royal Military College (unbelievable but true): Middle Ages Don’t eat first & don’t run: it panics the troops. Army artillery & JIO: the Napoleonic years You don’t know everything. Learning from those you lead. JIO/DIO: the Yes Minister years How to research & quickly sort out what matters. AWM: the Peter O’Toole years (early 1960s) How to create. Trusted. Vision. Patience. Breaking rules. Being yourself. Being vulnerable. UTS: the Twitter years (Web2.0+) Juggling. Trusting. Vision. Co-design. Fun @ work. Promotion. Imagination. Passion + realists.JIO was the Joint Intelligence Organisation. It became the Defence Intelligence Organisation. Istarted there as a Captain as a military desk officer and ended up as a civilian as theEconomic Adviser to the Director and Director of the Defence Economics Analysis area.Eventually we both realised that it would be best if we parted ways.So, after about 15 months on an executive development program which was an activelearning scheme involving three placements in a museum, a government department (writinga paper on why we should not regulate the internet) and with a private ICT company, I woundup back at the museum and stayed there through two ice ages.In the museum (the Australian War Memorial) I was trusted with a national collection(Australian records of war) and set about digitising as many as we could. I worked for amuseum Director who had a very clear vision for the institution. I was eventually trusted toput together a major exhibition on the war years of TE Lawrence and the Light Horse in theMiddle East in WW1 and by and large the museum and my team allowed me to be myself as aperson and a manager. I didn’t pretend to be invulnerable and found that my team (mostlylibrarians, curators and archivists) became quite protective of me. I enjoyed my time thereand left with happy memories.At UTS I am juggling several major projects and have my finger in many other smaller pies.We have a vision for our future but all the details are not yet set in concrete so we have thechance to use some co-design or participatory design methods and I am busy learning moreabout those right now. We encourage fun at work and we actively promote our initiatives andshare what we find is working for us with others. Imagination is valued at UTS and usuallygiven a decent run. I can get pretty passionate about stuff, but I am not always right, so it isgood to have a few realists around me who are not afraid to tell me when they think I amgetting too enthusiastic about just plain dumb ideas.
  3. 3. Other stuff Queenscliff SLSC: the 1980s & 1990s Don’t stuff people around. The attractive power of energy. Coaching swimmers/triathletes: the last 400 years Observation. Listening. Imagination. The power of praise. Swimming, riding, running & yoga Being in the moment. Time to think. General observations about some library leaders Marketing, financial management & leadership are not the same Minutes & meetings are not as important as people The ACO has a GM & an Artistic Director There is too much fear of the new Obsession with control & slowness to (re)actAs a manager I think I’ve also learnt a lot that I apply at work in other areas of my life.I spent a lot of time with Queenscliff Surf Life Saving Club in Sydney in the late 1980s andearly 1990s and motivating members of a voluntary organisation to complete their patrolhours (so they could compete in carnivals) is an interesting experience. One of the maincharacters there motivated people by sheer force of his personality and the positive energythat surrounded him. People just loved to be around him and would always follow hisexample.From many years of coaching I’ve seen the power of observation and of praise. Both can reallyhave a big effect on the performance of an athlete and both are skills that can be used atwork. Sometimes management is a lot like coaching (not that wanky life-coaching rubbish).I guess many of my athletic pursuits are quite solitary when not on group runs or rides. Theygive me much needed time to think that isn’t always available at work or elsewhere becauseof the many distractions. Yoga went a step further than that in making me more aware of theimportance of being in the moment and bringing the mind and body together.My comments about some library leaders were meant to stimulate debate at the session, andmost were recognised but people didn’t really pick up on the suggestion to split generalmanagement and artistic or creative leadership (like the Australian Chamber Orchestra do). Ithink there is a lot in that and our executive tends to work in that way at UTS Library (eventhough the roles are not permamently set in that way).That’s all!