Being a manager is not something that all future librarians are focused on. In fact, if one did an informal poll of the students in the Master of Library and Information Science program, many might say that they would eschew leadership roles. However, being a librarian of any sort is also being a leader. Librarians go out into the community, doing outreach and bringing the library to other locations. They take on interns and volunteers, work with young people to help give them skills needed for college and employment, and mentor new employees. They present programming ideas to staff and higher-ups, arguing why such things would be of benefit to their community. If librarians are also leaders, then they should know how to be strong ones.
Being in a leadership position and incorporating humanity is the focus of Scott’s (2019) Radical Candor: Be a Kick-ass Boss Without Losing Your Humanity. In it, she creates a compass of management types, “Compassionate candor, obnoxious aggression, manipulative insincerity, and ruinous empathy” (Scott, 2019, p. xii). Leading with honesty and heart, not manipulation, is the goal.
In many ways, Scott’s Radical Candor framework supports a Collaborative Leadership model. Calvert (2018) discussed good communication and leading collaboratively as a way to build staff engagement. “Clear communication is vital for gaining supporters, developing and selling your vision, and executing each task along the way” (Calvert, 2018, p. 82). Dewey (2020) emphasized empathy as the opposite of narcissism in Collaborative Leadership. Being sensitive to staff, listening, and supporting goals make for an empathetic leader (Dewey, 2020). Scott (2019) discussed her “Get Stuff Done (GSD) wheel” as her approach to collaborative leadership (p. 81). The wheel requires people to communicate as a team instead of diving right in. The wheel contains steps to “listen, clarify, debate, decide, persuade, execute, and learn”, creating a process of group cooperation (p. 81). Working collaboratively can involve all members of the library team, allowing creativity and a richer work environment to thrive.
Another aspect of corporate America that has found its way into how even libraries regard employees is ambition. While upward mobility may be important for some staff, others may be quite happy in their current positions, and they should not be judged for that. Scott (2019) refers to these different categories as rock stars and superstars. Rock stars bring a solid foundation to an organization while superstars need challenge and opportunity (Scott, 2019). Scott (2019) recommends rethinking ambition and looking at an employee as a whole human being. At different phases in each person’s life, either of those categories may make more sense to them. A person who loves their job may wish to be a rock star. A person who is starting to feel like they have done everything they can do in a role may need to become a superstar. Scott (2019) reminds managers that both are valid and part of a healthy work ecosystem.
Communication and leading with the heart make for good bosses. As Scott (2019) states, they can be kind and clear. Compassionate candor requires viewing each member of the team as a whole person with their own ideas and challenges. It requires a leader who welcomes and rewards feedback. It requires clear and honest communication and open listening. Being frank and open may seem radical in current interpretations of leadership, but it could be just the environment needed to create libraries that are flexible, welcoming, wonderful places to work, with staff ready to serve their communities in the ways the population needs.
Calvert, K. (2018). Collaborative Leadership: Cultivating an Environment for Success. Collaborative Librarianship, 10(2), 79-90.
Dewey, B. I. (2020). The power of empathetic and collaborative leadership. Library Leadership & Management, 34(2), 1-6. https://journals.tdl.org/llm/index.php/llm/article/view/7427
Scott, K. (2019). Radical candor: Be a kick-ass boss without losing your humanity. St. Martin’s Press.