Academic journal article Young Adult Library Services

Educational Leadership in Your Library: Lighting the Fire of Learning: Exploring the Connection between Learning and Leadership

Academic journal article Young Adult Library Services

Educational Leadership in Your Library: Lighting the Fire of Learning: Exploring the Connection between Learning and Leadership

Article excerpt

Whenever I think about the role of an educational leader, I always return to the words of poets. Most often, I think about William Butler Yeats, who remarked that "Education is not the filling of a pail but the lighting of a fire." A leadership vision begins when one personally defines education, and Yeats' eloquent statement has always resonated within me as I have attempted to do that. Educational leadership, therefore, is more than finding better ways to deposit knowledge and information into empty vessels. Rather, an educational leader (at a school, library, home, etc.) should be driven to help others rekindle their fire--that desire to learn--and to support them in that cognitive combustion. In addition, an educational leader should also trumpet the message that learning does not have a finish line. Instead, we learn continually so we can cultivate the boundless garden of our own possibility.

Therefore, the leader of an organized structure of learning (whether a school or a library) should be conscious of the role of that place. A school, for instance, should do more than provide the physical and structural support for each student's didactic pursuit. It should offer an intellectually safe place to learn, a space that is free from harmful elements that detract from the pursuit. Similarly, a library should also inspire, nurture, and challenge its stakeholders and its own staff by building upon each person's innate talents and helping forge new talents and interests for the future. It should be a welcoming place, where self-expression and inquiry are valued and the diversity that naturally blossoms in such an environment is nurtured. Finally, a place of learning should be a rewarding space; each person should feel valued, and his or her voice and pursuit should be celebrated. Leaders should, therefore, be more than building "holders" who are content to maintain the status quo; they should be building "movers" who believe in the possibilities of their environment and of the people served there.

Leading Through Learning

In order to encourage and inspire others, the leader of any educational space must first be an enthusiastic role model engaged in her or his own continual pursuit for learning. She or he must see herself or himself as a constant student--always passionately searching and questioning. When a leader shows passion for her or his own learning, it inspires others to do the same. On the other hand, if a leader looks upon her or his own role as a task and a function, then others will define their lives that way as well. They may never internalize the pursuit for learning; rather, it will be a job to finish and a task to check off. Therefore, an educational leader must demonstrate through her or his actions and words that learning is their primary and very personal responsibility. And one key way that a leader can show her or his commitment to learning: use the two objects on either side of their head. In other words, it all begins quite simply with the ears--and the act of listening with compassion, understanding, and empathy. An educational leader understands that a place of learning grows when all of the voices within that space are heard, and it is her or his main job to listen and learn from those voices.

Leading Through Change

In addition to being the chief fire starter, learner, and listener, an educational leader is also the key changing force in an organization. She or he has a vision of what can be and possesses the dedication to make that vision a reality. However, the leader should also realize the importance of everything around her or him: people, physical surroundings, and histories. This realization is vital as we examine how schools and libraries are built, shaped, and grown on the bright road forward. …

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