ON LIBRARIES: Making Leadership a Habit

When you want to change a behavior or achieve something, one of the best ways to ensure success is to turn it into a habit.  Whether it’s daily exercise, going to bed earlier, or making sure you have a monthly date with your significant other, when a positive action becomes a habit, success is the result. Leadership can become a habit if you tune into the behaviors which are a part of it.  To give you momentum – and early success – start by choosing the ones most comfortable to you.

To get you started, Lolly Daskal presents twelve “C’s” in a post, saying It’s Never Too Late to Learn These 12 Powerful Leadership Habits:

  1. Care – As the saying goes, “No one cares how much you know until they know how much you care.” Good leadership is built on relationships.  It’s through caring about others you grow as a leader.  I used to tell my staff (unbelievably in today’s world I had a co-librarian, a secretary and two clerks in a 12,000-student high school), “Don’t leave your problems at home.  Let us know and help you.”  This way, I never expected too much from someone who was struggling.
  2. Conviction – Your philosophy about what school librarianship must be, along with your Mission Statement, form your convictions. When they are strong, they are part of who you are.  The passion is communicated to others who are then more inclined to follow where you lead.
  3. Clarity – You need to be able to succinctly set a direction. Too much verbiage or including too many alternatives clouds the issue. Where do you want to go?  A leader knows and can express it easily and whenever asked.
  4. Confidence – This goes hand in hand with clarity. People don’t feel confident following leaders who continually waver and change direction.  This doesn’t mean you have to know everything or have all the answers all the time. You do need to have confidence in your skills, your mission and your ability to get things done eventually if not always immediately.
  5. Courage – For me, this is all about being confident enough to take risks. You need to be willing to leave your comfort zone. You will not do this every day, but you have to be ready to take the chance when the idea or opportunity surfaces. It goes well with confidence and clarity. It also includes taking responsibility for any mistakes. This can be a huge challenge and feel risky and uncomfortable, but when people see you doing it, it goes a long way toward them trusting you in the future.
  6. Commitment – Your stakeholders need to know you will follow through on what you propose. In a district (not the one with a staff of 5) that voted down 20 budgets in 22 years, I regularly got funds for projects because the superintendent knew I would produce results. The more you can show this, the more often you will get the “yes” you are looking for.
  7. Celebration – Recognize and celebrate the achievement of others. No project gets done alone. Praise and gratitude go to those who participate.  Everyone likes to be recognized. It’s the first step to them saying yes again.
  8. Collaboration – I know you are trying hard to do this and there are times when it feels as though the door is continually slammed in your face. Remember, collaboration is also about being open and willing to get ideas from others. Teachers, students, administrators, IT people, and others bring a different perspective. Keep an open mind and listen attentively. (And then celebrate the collaboration after!)
  9. Communication – Getting the word out to the right people at the right time with the right message and using the right platform is a critical leadership skill in today’s world. Who needs to know? How can you best reach them?
  10. Candor – Tell the truth. Never blindside an administrator.  Be willing to admit you are seeking help and advice.  You can still be confident when doing so. Hiding full truths (expense, the time necessary, etc.) will not endear you to other people in leadership roles.
  11. Courtesy – This is closely related to care. We are in a relationship occupation. Whether it’s a custodian or an administrator, show you value them as people. You should treat your students with respect as well. It’s amazing how memorable courtesy is.
  12. Credibility – Your track record builds credibility. People believe you will get something done based on what you have accomplished before.  Success breeds success. This doesn’t mean you can’t fail.  Keep going so any failures are outweighed by all your successes.

That’s Lolly Daskal’s list.  I have one more “C” to add:

  1. Confidentiality – You don’t repeat gossip. What a teacher or administrator says to you does not get circulated.  You are trustworthy. Remember at the beginning I mentioned encouraging staff and volunteers not to leave problems at home. Keeping what they say confidential is critical.

To add to your success and see your progress, I also recommend creating a leadership notebook where you record when you have exhibited the leadership behaviors/qualities you are focusing on.  There’s nothing like filling up those pages to see how far your habit has come.

Which habits from this list struck a chord with you? Choose two or three habits that you’d like to start. See how often you can practice them. Over time you will find that leadership is really habit-forming.

 

 

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ON LIBRARIES: Leaders Keep Growing

Leadership is a journey without an end.  You are either growing or dying.   So how do you continue to grow? Like everything you face in life, it’s a matter of choices.

Consciously or not, many librarians have sadly made the choice not to lead, but for those who have taken steps along that road, after each new step is in place, you want to be looking at where you want to go next. There are many ways to continue your growth, so choose the directions that best meet your needs.

Three weeks ago, I blogged about Leading Larger, suggesting you consider becoming more active at the state and/or the national level.  While actively participating in these associations are the most obvious steps, you might consider moving out of the librarian silo.  For example, at one point in my career, I became the union rep for the high school. I did it primarily to be in a position to advocate for the union’s support for the librarians in the district.  It was an effective move because it strengthened my relationships with teachers, but not one I enjoyed. For those of you who do like it, it’s a wonderful way for informing your teaching colleagues of the contributions school librarians at all grade levels make to students and the whole educational community. You might even become the union president. Those of you who work in states where unions are not permitted don’t have this choice, but you can find other options.

You can join organizations such as the International Reading Association or ASCD (Association for Supervision and Curriculum Development). The latter includes many administrators.  While the journals of both are excellent, to grow your leadership you need to become active at least in your state association’s affiliate.  If you have an affinity for a particular subject area, you can choose its national or state association to join and become an active member.

Beyond those possibilities, there are other ways to continue growing as a leader and some are fairly simple. Marlene Chism in a SmartBrief on Leadership discussed “7 Signs You Are Growing.”  You should find it reassuring to see how many ways you continue to grow.

From: Seven Signs You Are Growing

The first sign she writes about is “Your beliefs are still evolving.”  We all have our personal belief system while we also internalize the beliefs of our profession.  With the hate speech and violence making headlines, librarians everywhere are looking at the ALA Code of Ethics and Library Bill of Rights to determine when if ever certain types of speech are not acceptable in a library.  In the discussions being held within ALA and on various Facebook pages, school and other librarians are keeping an open mind and are prepared for shifts in beliefs as they come to their conclusions.

The second sign of leadership growth is the ability to see different points of view.  Although it connects to the first sign, it also is a constant within the school setting.  If you are to build relationships with teachers and administrators, you must be able to accept their perspective on a situation and work from there without judgment.

Third is the willingness to stop unproductive habits. This one is challenging. (I’ve mentioned my Klondike solitaire habit, right?) You might be willing, but doing so is not easy. If you want to work on this, pick just one that you think is keeping you from being as effective as you want to be.  When does it appear and why? What actions can you take to deal with it? Don’t expect to be perfect while making the change. A habit is a habit and it takes work to do something differently.

Chism’s fourth sign is, “You consciously build productive habits.”   This is the flip side of the third sign and is somewhat easier to do. Again, just choose one habit you would like to acquire.  For me, it’s not checking Facebook before getting productive work done.

Next is “You grow thicker skin.”  It’s natural to take negative comments personally, but it won’t help you as a leader. Learn to focus on the message, not the method of delivery. In growing as a leader you build your self-confidence and you are no longer intimidated by others.  You trust your skills and abilities.

The sixth sign is “You achieve more than you thought possible.”  Have you launched a successful Makerspace or other projects?  Did you get a teacher who barely used the library to collaborate with you? Did you serve on a committee and discover the other members valued your input? You find yourself thinking, “Did I really do that?”  You look back at where you were a few years go and realize the person you were then would be stunned to see what you have done.

Finally, “Your definition of success changes.”  The more you grow, the more you see other larger goals to reach for. The other six signs inevitably move you to aspire to greater things – and you go after them.

Are you growing as a leader?  Where do you want to