If you saw the title and thought “Hilda’s writing about being a leader again” my response is – absolutely. I will likely never stop. I honestly believe every one of you is a leader. You just may not be revealing it to yourself and others. It’s time to let your leader out for the sake of our students, teachers, and our profession. And just as you must continue to discover, practice, and improve your leadership skills, I must cheer you on, providing as much assistance as I can. I hope as this school year gets underway you challenge yourself to engage in one demonstration of your leadership.
The Vision of AASL speaks to what I have been saying for many years, “Every school librarian is a leader; every learner has a school librarian.” The only way we are going to stop losing school librarians is by being valuable leaders in our school communities. Those of you who are leaders have two tasks: become even more visible as leaders and help the school librarians in your district and state to become leaders.
A Google search yields scores of definitions of what a leader is, but the one I like best is from Vocabulary.com: “A leader is the one in the charge, the person who convinces other people to follow. A great leader inspires confidence in other people and moves them to action.” You are leading when you work with your students and engage them. You are being a great leader when they feel they can really do what at first seemed like an overwhelming task.
The same skills can apply in your dealings with others. Joel Garfinkle, writing for the business world, identifies and explains 8 Traits of Great Leaders. Many of these you are using with your students. It’s why your lessons work. The next step is to think of how you can use these traits in throughout your school and beyond.
- Great leaders have integrity – It’s why your students trust you. And your teachers do as well. They know you keep confidences. You also uphold the ALA Code of Ethics and the Library Bill of Rights.
- Great leaders have intelligence –It’s why you can help others. You know your stuff. This intelligence is also social and emotional intelligence. You have empathy. This is what, along with trust, helps you build relationships. Don’t forget to show how you can help your administrator. What is his/her vision? What do they want to accomplish? Use what you know to help them achieve it.
- Great leaders have high energy – It’s why you keep coming back. You can’t be a school librarian without it. Even on a fixed schedule, you can’t predict what demands will be made of you during the course of the day. Your high energy communicates to others your enthusiasm for what you are doing. Don’t forget to build in “me time” to avoid overwhelm and stress which will sap that energy.
- Great leaders bring stability – It’s why you can stay cool in a crisis. (You may choose to fall apart later.) This calm inspires confidence in you and your program. It is a reason for people to look to you for help when things get crazy. It’s why they will follow your lead.
- Great leaders have high standards – It’s why you have a Mission Statement. This works in addition to the ALA Code of Ethics and Library Bill of Rights. It represents what you see as your purpose and what your school library program is determined to deliver. Everything you do is related to that statement.
- Great leaders have a strong inner voice – It’s why you can stay focused. You trust your intuition and your gut to help direct you in your decisions. This is part of why you are calm in a crisis. It is powered by your Mission, Vision, and Philosophy. If you haven’t taken the time to create these, do so. That inner voice will serve you well.
- Great leaders are confident in their decisions – It’s why you can get back on track. You may always feel very strong in this trait but trust your inner voice, standards, intelligence, and integrity. Allow yourself to make mistakes, recognizing you will grow from it. Your confidence, like your calm, contributes to having people follow you.
- Great leaders invest in their own growth – It’s why your program keeps getting better. I have always felt strongly about this. You are responsible for your professional development. There are so many opportunities from webinars, Twitter chats, professional journals, and, of course, conferences. (I am an unabashed conference junkie.) You must be a member, preferably an active one, in your state library association. You should also join—and participate- in at least one national association. Working at that level will bring out your leadership skills.
As the subtitle of my most recent book for ALA Editions, Leading for School Librarians says, — There Is No Other Option. Take on making the AASL Vision a reality by performing as a leader.