Titles in Library Leadership: Random Notes

I’ve been looking through some notes lately on readings from Olson and Singer’s Winning with Library Leadership and Roger Fisher and Alan Sharp’s Getting It Done: How to Lead When You’re Not in Charge. Each offers some insightful suggestions about the nature of the relationships among colleagues. I’ve always had some interest not only in the ways in which humans interact with each other, whether in the mundane workplace or elsewhere, but also in the analyses made of behaviors among people who interact on a regular basis. I’ll be interested to read further into Fisher’s evaluation of these behaviors and how they are accepted or rejected. I will say that there is a lot going on in this book. That’s to say that the authors clearly have a great many notions and suggestions about behaviors in the workplace—far too many to get into here. In fact, I’ve tried to keep track of the finer points and reasoning suggested in Getting It Done, but I’ve abandoned my traditional system of note-taking on this one. I suspect the ideas may reveal themselves to me with greater clarity through discussion and suggest that readers take cues from the book a la carte.

In Winning with Library Leadership, Olson and Singer offer some truly valuable and practical perspectives on contributing and collaborating and dealing with great change as a leader or as the person in charge of a library environment. The authors, as well as Fisher, instill in the reader the motivation to be constantly engaged with her team, providing adequate feedback in the forms of advice and consistent positive reinforcement. Now toss in Fisher’s system of project enactment, another concept that should prove invaluable in a library role. Preparing, acting, and reviewing progress helps individuals and collaborative groups keep moving while avoiding past mistakes.

Moreover, in a society given to typing and labeling, the popular and dubious Myers-Briggs type testing is illuminating and useful to many people in leadership and supervisory roles. (Incidentally, I produced borderline scores on every section of the equivocal MBTI.) At the very least, a firm grasp of the attitudes, strengths, and personalities of one’s staff is essential to productive collaboration and team engagement.

These readings may inspire one to analyze himself in terms of attitudes and leadership capabilities and as a peer. To some extent, they’ve given me pause to consider my future as not only a leader, but as a collaborator and as one who can lead laterally. Lateral leading, or lateral coaching, is a subject well worth exploring and is given significant treatment in both Getting It Done and in Robert Garmston’s The Adaptive School: A Sourcebook for Developing Collaborative Groups. The ability to coach up and to help one’s colleagues without supervisory status is essential. To do it without bothering the boss is truly an underappreciated skill.

Some personalities will shy away from advising colleagues or commenting on another’s work in any form. Others will always be en garde and wield more than a few points of contention regarding a colleague’s performance. But by taking cues from the lessons in these readings, these vastly different personalities can learn the real values of constructive lateral coaching—how and when to assume a leadership role and when to be hands-off.