Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Library Leaders Needed: Yes, Please Apply

Academic journal article Library Philosophy and Practice

Library Leaders Needed: Yes, Please Apply

Article excerpt


Libraries, bookstores,, and are filled with titles containing the word leadership. A subject search in WorldCat using the word leadership retrieves 94,898 books, articles, Internet sites, and other media (WorldCat 2009). Considering the number of these written about leadership, we must be leadership experts! Leadership, however, is complex and we cannot even agree on what it is. In 1978, there were over 130 different definitions of leadership (Burns 1978). And, more have been added in the last thirty years. Definitions of leadership include:

* "Leadership is service" (Lao Tzu six century B.C.).

* "A leader is the most able man in the country. Find him and raise him to the supreme place and loyally reverence him" (Carlyle 1902).

* "Leadership is an exchange between leaders and followers. If the follower does what the leader wants, the follower gets rewarded. Punishment comes if the follower does not do what the leader wants" (Burns 1978).

* "Leadership is human (symbolic) communication which modifies the attitudes and behaviors of others in order to meet group goals and needs " (Hackman and Johnson 1991).

* "Leaders are always made, not born. There is no genetic marker for leadership." (Bennis 1997).

Leadership Needed

Although a definitive definition is illusive, the idea that we desperately need leaders is not. In 1978, James MacGregor Burns wrote, "One of the most universal cravings of our time is a hunger for compelling and creative leadership" (1). In 1997, University President, Warren Bennis, wrote ... "we're in desperate need of leaders. Unfortunately, it is increasing difficult to find men and women of vision who are willing to stand on principle and make their voices heard. One has to wonder, where have all the leaders gone?" (Bennis 1997, 17). Bennis contends that the leadership crisis is in all organizations. In 2007, almost thirty years after Burns' message, former Chairman of Chrysler Corporation, Lee Iacocca, asks "Where are the voices of leaders who can inspire us to action and make us stand taller?" (Iacocca 2007, 5).

Literature Review

Library literature is filled with articles and books identifying effective leadership styles, successful leadership attributes and interviews with library directors. Peter Hernon provides an overview of this material in Making a Difference in Leadership of Academic Libraries (Hernon 2007, 61-64). Literature exists also that identifies leadership competencies (Ammons-Stephens, et al 2009; Hernon, Powell, Young, 2001, 2002; Hernon, Powell, Young 2003). Challenges that academic library directors experience as the directors and their supervisors perceive them is the focus of research by this article's author (McElrath 2002).

Several articles focus on helping people in non-leadership roles working in academic libraries to develop leadership skills. In 2009, Christopher Raab identified the R.O.L.L Matrix, a "holistic, geographically tiered approach to identifying leadership opportunities for academic librarians" (Raab 2009, 80). The matrix includes short term and long term departmental/library opportunities, college/community opportunities, state/regional opportunities, and national/international opportunities for academic librarians who do not have formal leadership. Merrill, Alex N. and Elizabeth Blakesley Lindsay write about the Washington State University (WSU) Libraries' program to "encourage more people to feel confident leading committees or initiatives" (Merrill 2009, 85). The program consists of an introductory session, readings, presentation about leadership styles, case study and group discussions. Program evaluation revealed that the program was a valuable leadership learning experience as well as served as a "team-building experience" (Merrill 2009, 87). Additionally, Shirley K. Baker focuses on academic librarians in her article, "Leading from Below; Or Risking Getting Fired. …

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