Step back a moment and reflect on the leaders you know or have worked with. You may have had a principal or superintendent who was always coming up with new strategies to improve student performance and instruction. Sometimes it seemed that the beginning of every school year an “exciting approach” was introduced.
Or you may have had one who made every feel respected and valued. I had a superintendent who had to work with a district that kept school budgets as tight as possible. She could get staff to go beyond requirements by knowing the right compliments to give people. I was told I was a “true professional.” I don’t know what she said to a Spanish teacher who had no problem teaching four different sections of Spanish. (Spanish IV and AP Spanish were included in one class.) The union wasn’t happy at what teachers were “giving away,” but the district got an amazing return for very little money.
So what type of leader are you and how many types are there? Turning as I usually do to the business world for their answers I discovered there are quite a number. In his article on “Eight Archetypes of Leadership in the Harvard Business Review, Manfred F. R. Kets de Vries identifies and discusses them. I will give you my “library” interpretation of these archetypes.
The Strategist: leadership as a game of chess – These librarians keep current with changes in education, technology, and the politics of the district. They see how to position the library program in the forefront, sometimes before anyone else knows what is coming.
The Change-Catalyst: leadership as a turnaround activity – Although this seems similar to the Strategist there are significant differences. While the Strategist works best in orderly situations, the Change-Catalyst is a true Disrupter (see last week’s blog) and functions best in messy almost chaotic situations. They shine when a new superintendent or principal is hired and no one knows what to expect. In the midst of the chaos, they make the needed changes and the library program helps others through the difficult time.
The Transactor: leadership as deal making – Rarer in school librarianship, this type of leader knows how to negotiate with administrators to eke out more funds. For example, with ESSA coming they approach their principal with ideas for resources which will help teachers make the change-over. They might ask for one-time funding to cover the cost, or if it’s an electronic resource an ongoing increase to maintain it.
The Builder: leadership as an entrepreneurial activity – The Builder envisions something new and knows how to create it. Those librarians who have transformed their libraries into a Learning Commons (particularly the first ones) are the Builders.
The Innovator: leadership as creative idea generation – The first ones I knew were the librarians who automated their libraries when computers were in the early stages and you sent your shelf list to one company to create the electronic records, to another vendor to put them into the purchased system, and still a third for barcodes. Today they are the ones who brought Makerspaces to the library, implement the latest tech into their program and know how to get teachers on board. They run the Twitter chats or a Google Hangout.
The Processor: leadership as an exercise in efficiency – No matter how hard pressed these leaders are, they know how get to the heart of the matter, eliminate what no longer is working, and make running a busy library look easy. (For me, this is the least important of the types from a library perspective.)
The Coach: leadership as a form of people development – These are leaders with high Emotional Intelligence. As with the superintendent I had, they know how to get the most out of people. They know their volunteers’ skill sets and make the best use of them. They are charismatic and teachers love working with them resulting in much collaboration or cooperation and support for the library program from the staff and administration.
The Communicator: leadership as stage management – Librarians who have mastered how to get the right message in the most productive format to various target audiences get enthusiastic support for their program since Communicators are skilled at “marketing” their product to the appropriate stakeholders.
With this list in mind, which type of leader are you? You might be more than one. Is there a type you would like to become.