January 17, 2013
What Are the Top Ten Traits of Great Library Leaders? (Where will you find today's law librarian leaders?)
Late last year in a 21st Century Library blog post, Steve Matthews wrote:
As we approach the end of 2012, I thought I’d get back to my theme for the year – Library Leadership. In order to be a great leader, a person must possess and demonstrate certain characteristics, or traits of leadership. Here are 10 [link to post] that should be at the top of anyone’s list who is striving to become a great library leader.
Ranked as the number one trait according to Matthews is:
1. Great Leaders Have High Character
Think about a situation in which you knew you could do something and no one would EVER know about it if you didn’t tell. Good or bad, doesn’t matter, your actions would never be found out. There would be no evidence of your actions linked to you. There would be no repercussions to you or anyone you knew. That’s not to say that your actions would have no impact on anyone, actions always have impact on someone or something, just no one you know who could trace your actions back to you. What would you do? The answer to this question is what constitutes a person’s character.
“The measure of a man’s real character is what he would do if he knew he would never be found out.” Thomas Macaulay
Matthews closes his post with the following statement:
Library leaders should be striving to be “great” leaders. It’s what the profession needs to flourish in the ambiguous future and regain the library’s relevance in the community. It is what’s needed for survival.
Who exhibits real library leadership qualities? I believe the lesson to be learned here is that library leadership is not defined by elected library association national office holders. Leadership is not an "official status." Nor is it something one can learn from the pablum of educational and professional development programs about "your value" cranked out by AALL. As the saying goes, if you have to tell people you're valuable, you're probably not. Do note well, there was (hopefully no longer) a time when that saying had to be qualified with "as long as you are a male law librarian" because of a rampant sexist perpective.
Leadership is or needs to be defined by the content of one's professional character and the actions taken by individual law librarians who assume that risk. This is particularly clear in uncertain times like the structural transformation underway today. Eventually the cumulative impact of those actions does wake up AALL officialdom as they try to catch up to the pack to "assume" a leadership role that has been defined by the concerted activities of the rank-and-file who are leading law librarians towards a direction needed for survival. [JH]