Alchemical Thoughts

Contrasting posts on leadership

Posted on: May 12, 2011

Ken Haycock’s recent post on “Building a Better Manager” recently made the rounds in the librarian blogosphere. It does seem a lot of the fuss was over Mr. Haycock’s unfortunate use of the word “sissy.” Yes, the usage was unfortunate. No, the world will not end because he lacks sensitivity. Anyhow, I read the post, and I was not really impressed. It is mostly a list of leadership platitudes, the kind of thing you find in any run of the mill business leadership book. By his admission, he is using Google results for his list of manager behaviors. Again, if this is what passes for leadership thinking in our librarian profession, I am not impressed.

Around the same time I read that post, I had read a post on “What Makes a Creative Director a Great Leader” via the Idea Sandbox. The post is geared at more creative types, but as the author writes, “the ideas go beyond that of just a Creative Director.” If I had to pick a post for my professional brethren to read on leadership, this would be the one I would pick between the two. More often than not a lot of the good thinking I find on leadership is outside librarianship. I don’t know what that says about our profession, nor do I pretend to say, but if nothing else it does indicate we can learn from other fields of endeavor. We just have to be selective about what we choose to learn. The list of items is worth reading. Here are some of the items just to give readers an idea. The good leader:

  • “Understanding not just what someone states they need, but to look further to what they really need.”
  • “Treats people with respect and dignity.” (You would think this is common sense, and yet in many cases, library managers do need to be told this. If nothing else, the good amount of pseudonymous blogs where librarians afraid of retaliation go to in order to vent should give a hint this is a problem).
  • “Knows when to help clear a path… and when to stay out of the way.”

So, skip Haycock’s post and read the one about creative directors instead.

And a bonus item, via the Anecdote blog, “Tom Peters on Stories and Leadership.” It is a brief quote basically on empowering all workers to be able to take initiative. Have a look. Anecdote’s ideas on storytelling and the workplace are something that I find interesting. I think some of it may be applicable to our profession and libraries, if we could find ways to do it right other than just portraying the happy moments and retelling things that go with the established lines. But for me that is food for thought for another time. Meantime, I am jotting it down so I can remember.

2 Responses to "Contrasting posts on leadership"


Thanks so much for your kind words about my leadership post.

An interesting thing happened when I started thinking about the role of creative director.

A creative director – just like many bosses – has direct reports. But, there is something automatically different in the relationship between a creative director and their creative team.

A creative director – by definition of their role – is supposed to provide inspiration, serve as coach and mentor for their team. They guide the team in meeting the needs of the client’s creative brief. Trial and error is encouraged in pencil so when you switch to ink there’s a better result. They encouraging to push the art. To push the message. To do their best work.

While this may describe the job of a creative director… it should be the role of every leader.

How terrific would it be to have a boss who inspired, coached, taught, and encouraged you make mistakes? Someone who partnered with you to push your skills further to make this project better than the last?

We all need to take on the role of creative director when we lead – no matter what profession we are in.

Thanks again for the link and for finding and reading Idea Sandbox!

– Paul


Thank you for stopping by. I found your question from the comment particularly interesting. You wrote:

“How terrific would it be to have a boss who inspired, coached, taught, and encouraged you make mistakes? Someone who partnered with you to push your skills further to make this project better than the last?”

It is a question that I wish was not only asked more in librarianship, where library directors are (supposedly) one to provide vision and inspiration for their libraries, but one that got meaningful answers and action. Good food for thought, thank you.

Best, and keep on blogging.

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May 2011


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