May NMRT Online Discussion Board Article: Ways to Develop Your Leadership Skills

By Jessica Kiebler

Hello readers, my name is Jessica Kiebler and I am writing as a member of the NMRT Online Discussion Forum Committee to provide you with an update from our May discussion, hosted on the NMRT-L listserv.

May’s discussion topic focused on identifying qualities that are important to library leaders as well as sharing the strategies and resources for librarians can use to develop those skills.

The discussion questions encouraged sharing resources as well as personal experiences from both seasoned and newer library leaders about the ways they have developed their skills as leaders.

  1. What are the most important skills for library leaders to possess?
  2. How can librarians (new or seasoned) develop leadership skills in their current roles?
  3. What are the best resources you have used to hone your leadership skills?

What makes someone a leader?

There were many suggestions as to what qualities are important for library leaders to possess:

  • Having a vision
  • Time management
  • Active listening
  • Effective communication
  • The ability to build/work with a team
  • Passion/Drive
  • Self-awareness

The month’s discussion highlighted the need to know what your mission is for whatever team, project or library that you are guiding. Even if you are a solo librarian, there may be board members, stakeholders and those in the community that you are working with to move the library forward. If you work in a team of librarians, you must work together, along with various stakeholders, to lead your library to success.

A leader’s vision should be guided by the needs of patrons and those we serve so active listening is an important leadership quality to truly hear and understand what they need. Another component to crafting that vision is to have be self-aware of your strengths and incorporate them into a personal mission statement for yourself as a leader. Being self-aware can allow you to be open to seeing the strengths in others and empowering them to use those strengths to accomplish your library’s goals.

And sharing your vision with others is not just about delegating tasks but creating a team. To illustrate that point, a quote by filmmaker, Brett Culp, was shared: “Leadership is inviting people on a mission to do something extraordinary together.”

The discussion also touched on the misconception that introverts are not well-suited to be leaders. While introverts may be seen as quiet and adverse to teamwork, that is not the case. Librarians shared their personal stories of being introverted leaders who are confident, effective communicators who enjoy working in a team but may not exhibit traditional extrovert traits. Resources on introverted leadership were shared as well and can be found below.

Be a committee leader

One way to start on your journey to being a leader is to participate in library committee work. Whether it is internal to your institution or an external state/national committee, serving on a committee can provide opportunities to learn by example from committee leaders, see how the library community works together and practice leadership skills in a group. By watching other leaders, you can also see a variety of leadership styles to determine your leadership style. There is no one-size fits all leadership approach!

Some of the most important leadership skills that can be gained through committee work are time management, organization and teamwork. In order to work with others (especially virtually!), balance various commitments and attend meetings, these skills are essential. Reading the New Member’s Round Table Blog and signing up for the listserv are great ways to stay up to date on committee opportunities and get to know other library leaders.

Learn & lead where you are

You can also lead where you are! A few responses discussed how librarians can be empowered within their current roles by taking on responsibilities that require leadership skills such as leading a task force, chairing a committee or even just taking the lead on a project. Some organizations may offer optional training on leadership which can serve as an opportunity for new leaders to understand the traits, skills and behaviors to be successful in that type of role.

Leaders must be also be effective learners, always taking in new ideas and perspectives, which is a natural fit for those in the library profession!

Resources Shared

Gallup Strengths Finder 2.0
San Jose University’s “Day in the Life of a Leader” Webinar Series
Book: The Introverted Leader: Building on Your Quiet Strength by Jennifer B. Kahnweiler
Books: Harvard Business Review series

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