How Do You Want to Be Remembered as a Leader? | Leading from the Library

What type of leader are you? What is your purpose, and who do you serve? Some new research about leaders’ mindsets examines assumptions and beliefs about the nature and purpose of leadership—and how to make the most of it.
What type of leader are you? What is your purpose, and who do you serve? Some new research about leaders’ mindsets examines assumptions and beliefs about the nature and purpose of leadership—and how to make the most of it. Leaders are like experiences. When they are exceedingly good or bad we remember them passionately. In addition to finding their way into our long-term memory, an exceptionally great or toxic leader or experience can alter or shape our personal paradigm of how the world works. That’s why it’s common to hear from librarians how a truly memorable leader influenced their thinking about leadership, as well as the way in which they go on to practice it. A remarkable leader leaves indelible lessons for how to treat followers, lead with humility, and create a lasting legacy of productive accomplishment. Toxic leaders do the same, but the lesson and legacy is about what not to do. If asked, “How would you like to be remembered as a leader?” would any library leader aspire to anything other than “remarkable,” avoiding being seen as the “what not to do” model at all costs?

Or So You’d Think

If the answer to that question should always be, “Well of course I want to be remembered as a respected, trusted, admired, perhaps even remarkable leader,” then why is it so common in our profession to hear colleagues commiserating about their terrible boss? I’ve suggested in the past that lack of self-awareness is a considerable challenge for leaders who may think they’re doing a great job but are disliked by staff members. It’s also entirely possible that some leaders know they are toxic but show little concern for the dysfunction they create as long as the work gets done. What if the problem is that library leaders give too little thought to the type of leader they want to be—and be remembered as? It takes more than studying the qualities of good leaders. Excepting that small number of library leaders who have no interest in improving, one recommended strategy is to think more intentionally about what kind of leader you are now and what kind of leader you want to be in the future. What are your leadership beliefs? How do you aim to make the most of the unique opportunities leadership provides you? To do that well, it helps to have more insight into different types of leadership mindsets.

Develop Your Mindset

When leaders better recognize different approaches to leadership and acknowledge which one best describes themselves, they can identify and work towards a preferred mindset—which is probably a blend. In the field of education, a current trend is to promote the adoption of a growth mindset among students as a way to help them overcome learning deficits. The theory and practice suggests that if students think of themselves as having the capacity to learn and acquire challenging skills they will be mentally prepared to succeed. So why not a version of growth mindsets for leaders?  A starting point is a study of leaders across 80 industries, in which researchers Modesto Maidique and Nathan Hiller developed a set of six leadership mindsets: The Sociopath: Your basic toxic leader. Quite likely antisocial and driven by hubris. This mindset is unlikely to change and employees should strongly consider seeking employment elsewhere. The Egoist: Their motto is “What’s in it for me?” This leader is mostly driven by the pursuit of power and personal recognition. Unlike the Sociopath, the Egoist has little intent to harm others, and quite possibly can harness their egotism for positive narcissism, but too often create dysfunction through their disregard for staff needs and inability to correct their destructive behaviors. The Chameleon: Because this leader adopts whatever position is currently popular, staff are never sure what to expect. As a result, gaining staff trust is problematic. While The Chameleon could be a reasonable, decent manager (they rarely ascend to top leadership positions), their inability to take a consistent, values-based position is ultimately damaging to their team. The Dynamo: While admired for executing strategy and achieving at a high level, this leader’s challenge is neglecting the broader mission and goals of their organization. That leads them to focus more on short-term success than taking the long view for future growth. Employees could do worse than a dynamo, but anticipate an organization driven by fast results rather than one with a long view driven by core values. The Builder: This leader has the collective good of the organization in mind. They bring the long-term perspective, looking to create an organization for the long haul that has a clear vision and direction. The Builder knows that getting there takes a well-developed staff. There are few if any drawbacks to this leader, except when they are too driven and lack the humanistic touch. The Transcender: This is the leader who thinks most broadly. As the name suggests, these leaders transcend the day-to-day operations or short-term goals in favor of the long view and how their organizations can create the most value for stakeholders. These are big picture thinkers who manage complexity well, but also are humble, emotionally intelligent and treat workers well. They also are highly self-aware, understanding the five other types of leaders and when and how they can help the organization. Maidique and Hiller believe that leaders are likely to combine elements from multiple types of leaders at different points in their careers. What leaders can learn from these mindsets is both what to avoid and what to aspire to. The authors also observe that as leaders gain experience they are more concerned with their legacy and moving in the direction of being transcendent. That should naturally motivate leaders to aim for those qualities that best support the needs of both the organization and its workers.

Leader Mindset Learning

In response to last month’s column, readers shared their stories about leaders they love—or at least admire and respect. It reinforces my belief that our profession is developing remarkable leaders, or at least putting them on the path to achieve that status. Others expressed concern that library education does too little to prepare librarians for leadership and management roles. I’m less concerned about what happens in library education. My observation is that, by the time librarians find themselves in leadership roles, whatever was covered in their management course is long since forgotten or irrelevant in practice. To better equip LIS students for future leadership roles, a better strategy might be to focus on these leadership mindsets. They are easy to grasp and remember and could fit readily into a soft skills development course. A simplification for sure, but perhaps a lesson over the long run that better equips students to be the boss. Want to get a better sense of your own leadership mindset? Take some time to go through Maidique and Hiller’s online survey to see how the mix of mindsets might be influencing your own leadership style. Then decide how you will use these mindsets to become the leader you truly want to be remembered.
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gordon bigelow

I am concerned about the rating of libraries and whether the process involves consulting grassroots sources in communities of rated libraries. I wonder about the criteria for rating libraries, and whether they rely mostly on self-reported policies and practices, or whether some kind of investigatory process is involved. This matters to me, because the District library in Ann Arbor, Michigan, has received very high ratings, but several practices in recent years have alienated this library system from much of its constituency. We are disturbed by authoritarian management that results in reduction in the role of professional librarians, unresponsiveness of the director to public concerns,abolition of a swap rack for periodicals that was widely used, clerks playing at the role of reference librarians, lack of autonomy in branches, and all that these entail. The director labels people who use the library "customers," which seems characteristic of her mindset.

Posted : Jul 09, 2018 10:31

anonymous coward

I seem to see a lot of complaints like this. The first thing that comes to mind is the question of if you're conflating anecdotes with data. Things are changing. Change is inherently hard and uncomfortable. Some vocal library users (absolutely nothing wrong with using the term customers, btw) will complain about every change. These changes might alienate some of the constituency- but if you lose one and gain 2, you're reaching more of the community. Ideally you'd like to gain 2 without losing 1... but that's not always possible. When you're in the mix, this can feel wrong and unresponsive. If the library feels like a club (which most can, because it's only really 5% of your users who drive your gate count and circ numbers) and you try to shake it up to get people in who quit using it because they felt the club wasn't for them... it requires making people upset. However, your director is responsive to all kinds of requests, questions, suggestions, etc., that you never hear about or know about. Maybe being responsive to those who make suggestions- or implementing those suggestions- would be bad for the library. Have you spoken with her about it? Let her know you're confused and would like clarity of the vision and goals for the library. Innovation inherently requires change. Change is naturally uncomfortable- if it wasn't uncomfortable people would have done it a long time ago. The proof, as they say, is in the pudding. Are more people using the library? Is circulation up? Have community surveys seen an improvement in perceived value and customer service?

Posted : Jul 09, 2018 10:31


"Quite like antisocial and driven by hubris." Huh? Incomplete sentence structure aside, I can't tell what the "quite like antisocial" means? Thanks for help!

Posted : Jun 30, 2018 12:39

Sarah Nagle

Perhaps quite LIKELY?

Posted : Jun 30, 2018 12:39



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