3. Be The First Penguin

In a previous post I listed 24 library leadership qualities that will inspire me to be a loyal follower.

3.  I will follow someone who shows me the way (leads by example).

Leading by example is difficult, because it’s personal. It takes courage to step outside your comfort zone. It is a calculated risk where the benefits are more likely (but often not guaranteed) to outweigh the costs.

And because it’s personal, what I think is a good example of leadership may not rate highly on your leadership scale because we have different values and priorities.

I will follow someone who shows me how my values align with what is expected of me in my daily work, and in the progression of my career. Note that I’ve used the word values rather than priorities. My priorities are derived from my values. Values are the core of who I am, they define me.

Four values that define me (and what inspires me to follow others) are:

  1. Curiosity – willing to try new ways of working
  2. Excellence – aim to be the best
  3. Integrity – do the right thing
  4. Leadership – allow others to excel and recognise their achievements

And I find, more often than not, that I am most inspired by library staff who apply these values to everyday situations such as dealing with difficult borrowers, motivating team members, solving technical issues, or collaborating with others.

It’s so easy to sit back and wait for someone else to make the first move. To seek the approval of others before taking action. To pass judgment in casual conversations with colleagues but stay silent when asked to participate. We don’t want to look foolish. We often believe that others know more than we do and therefore our opinion doesn’t matter, or that it’s someone else’s responsibility.

But someone has to lead.

One penguin has to be brave enough to take the first dive. Be the first penguin.

A version of this article appeared in Library Life: Te Rau Ora, 15 June 2011.