To become that indispensable member of the educational community, you must show exceptional leadership. It’s as simple as that. As a topic I speak and writing on frequently, I also know that many librarians hear this and worry. They are already doing so much. How can they add more to their work and be a leader? What I am proposing is not so much an added list of things to do, but rather a reminder of how to be. We are, after all, in the relationship business, and true leadership comes from how we are with the people in our lives.
Assume that your Vision, Mission and initiatives are all supporting your school to take it a step further Scott Cochrane tells us How to Spot Leadership Character With 10 Easy Signs, and those signs are the ones you can incorporate into your actions with others. They are simple and straightforward. You probably have many of them, but some may have been lost in your struggles. It’s time to get them back.
Here’s how people with leadership character behave:
- They receive a compliment with grace – That not only means saying, “thank you,” it means not minimizing what the giver said or trying to return an equal one.
- They receive negative feedback with humility and non-defensiveness – This one can be tough, especially when you are under stress. The key is to assume positive intent. If possible, thank the person and then take time when you don’t feel hurt to assess the negative feedback for validity.
- They give voice to disagreement while still extending respect – It’s not about keeping silent. It’s about how you respond. Ruth Bader Ginsberg said, “You can disagree without being disagreeable.”
- They give thoughtful answers, not off-the-cuff reactions – Learning to pause before responding will improve the quality of your answer (this is one I continue to work on!). It will have the added benefit of improving your relationship with the person who asked the question. They will recognize you value what they say.
- They might criticize the merits of an idea, but not the person bringing the idea to the table – In our contentious time, this is a most valuable reminder. It is an extension of #3. Don’t make the ideas of others personal. Discuss why and idea works or doesn’t and don’t discuss the person who suggested it.
- Their apologies are unreserved; they don’t say, “I’m sorry, but” or “I’m sorry if…” “I’m sorry if I offended you,” is not an apology. It’s blaming the other person for the offense they took. Own what you said, accept that it may have landed wrong, and mean it.
- If they don’t know the answer to a question, they say so; they don’t bluff their way through – There is nothing wrong with not have an immediate answer. Librarians recognize, we don’t know all the answers – just where to find them. People see through a bluff, and the attempt diminishes you in their eyes.
- They never “humble-brag” – Related to #1, being self-deprecating with the intention of calling attention to your work is not a leadership quality. When you say, “I really didn’t do that much,” “It wasn’t that hard,” you are fishing for a compliment or downplaying the work you did. Be careful. Eventually, people might believe that you didn’t do that much.
- Their conversation includes plenty of “pleases” and “thank you’s” – Between texting and being harried, we have become lax in these once automatic phrases. They have power, particularly if the way you say them shows you mean what you say. I had a superintendent of schools in a district that kept education on a stringent budget. She got incredible mileage of knowing how to specifically compliment key faculty and say a meaningful thanks. It costs nothing and strengthens relationships.
- Their words shine the spotlight on others – Always! As a leader you give credit to others for the successes and notice when things work. When you do that, not only do you get little or no negative feedback from what didn’t work, but others feel safe in working with you. Teachers recognize that the focus on projects won’t be on mistakes, and they will be celebrated for their achievements.
Tune into how you are interacting with others. Look for ways to put these leadership character traits into your day (at home as well as at work). You will see a difference and without adding more to your workload you will be a stronger leader.