When I attended Aurora in 2005 my manager expected me to be so changed by the experience that I would actively seek new adventures within two years. He was right. By February 2007 I had left libraries altogether.
For library leaders to successfully provide guidance and direction, others must be inspired to follow. It takes courage to be a leader, but it also takes courage to be a follower. Endless attention is paid to leadership development, but we don’t train library staff how to be “strong followers who are not only capable of brilliantly supporting their leaders, but can also effectively stand up to them when their actions or policies are detrimental and need rethinking.”
The list below is my public declaration of library leadership qualities that will inspire me to be a loyal follower.
I will follow someone who:
- has a vision of how libraries can take the world to a better place
- aims to be the best and attempts to make it happen
- shows me the way (leads by example)
- helps me overcome obstacles
- strives for a cure rather than a band-aid
- stretches my thinking
- listens to others
- communicates in a way that I can understand
- asks for my opinion
- doesn’t know all the answers and invites conversation
- is prepared to change everything except their basic beliefs
- knows what is right, and does the right thing
- tries a lot of stuff and keeps only what works
- takes a leap of faith
- lead with questions not answers
- engages in dialogue and debate, not coercion
- appreciates and acknowledges achievement
- is prepared to live outside their comfort zone
- doesn’t rely on a crisis not happening but relies on being ready
- motivates others to excel
- changes before they have to
- is visible
- tests their ideas outside their immediate circle of influence
- shares their ideas, stories, and successes with the world
All too often libraries are judged and ranked by the number of transactions that occur and not the experiences that make up these transactions. In my view, this is the heart of successful library leadership that is missing.
A version of this article appeared in eLibraryLife, 6 April 2011.