What Leadership Qualities Do You Value?

Leading the Way

Leading the Way

What leadership qualities do you value in your manager or library director? This question was asked of our class during a week-long library management academy last month. As we went around the group of thirty or so people, several common themes developed, including trust, transparency, ethics, sense of humor, good communication skills, a willingness to encourage staff to try new things, and honesty. Once we’d finished going around the room, the speaker turned things around, asking which of the leadership characteristics mentioned we saw in ourselves already, and which characteristics we wanted to foster. It was a great question, and one I’ve continued to ponder, not just in the context of my current job, but in library school and future jobs as well.
With the full plates we already have as library science students, sometimes the thought of adding leadership development can feel like just “one more thing,” especially if we’re doing well to keep our head above water with multiple commitments. It’s worth considering, though, because opportunities abound to develop skills while we’re still in school. Here are a few ideas:
1) Get involved in student chapters of professional organizations, from holding office to helping organize an activity or maintaining the chapter website. Check out Nicole’s recent post, Best Practices for Student Organizations and Steve’s post, Student Leadership: Time to Get on Board for ideas!

2) Get involved in committees of professional organizations! Many ALA committees have virtual spots as well as juries (which do all of their work virtually), ideal for students and others who can’t travel to conferences. State library organizations also have committees worth joining. Be sure to check out Courtney’s post, Committing to Committees,  and Julia’s post, Committee Work: Not So Scary After All for more information on committee work and how to get involved.

3) Take a role (and follow through) in a class group project! Yes, many of us moan and groan when group projects are assigned in our library school classes. Thinking back on previous group projects, we can all remember the people who didn’t hold up their end, but we can also recall the group mates who were good leaders, classmates who communicated well and went the extra mile to make sure everything came together by the deadline. Be the “extra mile” person, the kind of group member people want to have on their team. Meeting deadlines and learning to work with a variety of people are skills that will come in handy in libraryland. Check out the “Group Work” post from the blog, Surviving Grad School, for more insights.

Honing your leadership skills as a library student is bound to help in the job interview process too! Chances are good that you’ll get questions to help the search committee find out what kind of leader you are (or will become).  Beyond the typical “What are your strengths/weakness?” question, be prepared to answer questions about how your leadership/management experiences. Even if your only experiences have been in school, think about how they might relate to the “real world.” Interviews are also a great opportunity to find out more about the leadership qualities of the people you might work for and with. Be observant as you meet people during the interview day, and how they interact with and respond to one another. Better yet, come prepared with some leadership-related questions to ask. (Interviews go both ways, of course!) What leadership/management questions would you ask in an interview to learn more about a perspective supervisor and colleagues?

Looking for some good books on leadership? Below are some of the recommendations I picked up at last month’s library management academy:

Change the Way You Lead Change: Leadership Strategies that Really Work

The Tipping Point: How Little Things Can Make a Big Difference

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking

Working with Emotional Intelligence

It’s Not About the Coffee: Lessons on Putting People First from a Life at Starbucks


Other great HLS posts to read about leadership include Rethinking Leadership in Librarianship and Leadership in the Library Industry.


What leadership qualities do YOU value?


2 replies

  1. Lesley, thanks for this post. In particular, your points about group projects. I have two this semester (unsurprising, since I’m taking two classes) and have definitely taken on the “extra mile” role for one of them. But in doing so, I’ve wondered all semester if that’s appreciated or if it is seen as me “taking over” the project. The thing I find most frustrating about group projects in school is that there isn’t one person who is assigned (by virtue of job title or designation by the boss) to be “in charge.” I hope that my groupmates don’t mind my “extra mile”!


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