The past few weeks have found me focused on one question when it comes to libraries: What is the difference between leadership and management? I was asked this question by a great group of librarians a few weeks back. I stumbled in my response when I was asked the question but I kind of trudged my way through. My mind did not stop thinking about the question. I kept reliving the moment. The answer to this question became something of a healthy obsession for me.
I read a lot of articles, saw a lot of tweets (like the great one from Anthony Molaro above), and talked to a lot of people. Everything has been coming together and I think I have an answer. The piece Three Differences Between Leaders and Managers by Vineet Nayar really helped me shape these ideas, and I’ll be pulling quotes from the piece to share what I’ve learned, where I am, and where I think (hope) I am going.
“You’re probably counting value, not adding it, if you’re managing people.”
Over the past year of my life, I’ve focused strongly on the numbers and analyzing and measuring what we do in libraries. It has been a great experience: I can better see how and if things work, understand what changes need to be made in order to make something work, and to not be afraid to shift things around or pull the plug if they don’t work out. All of these things are ok. Numbers, value, and measurements help this. But if you’ve followed along this blog and my social media presence over the past year you’ve notice that I’ve been…well a bit weirder and more scattered than usual. Change can do that to a person. You know what else can do that to a person? Being in a role that they know they’re OK at, but also being in a role that they’re not the best at. I strive to be the best in everything I do. I want to be the “toppermost of the poppermost” with every role in my life. While I think I am an OK manager (I get things done, I don’t mess up that much), I know these days that I am not and will most likely never be the best manager. It’s not in my personality.
“Leadership refers to an individual’s ability to influence, motivate, and enable others to contribute toward organizational success.”
And here is where things become a bit clearer for me. The part of my job that I enjoy the most is thinking about the big, forward thinking ideas, assisting and connecting with others to put those ideas in place, and influencing and motivating others to be part of the team and take the work we do in the library to the next level. To me, everything I do in a library has one goal: It has to meet and exceed community needs and be beneficial for the longterm health of the organization. This is where it hits me: managers work through the day to day stuff, keep things running, and are the on the ground drivers of the work done in libraries. Leaders have the idea of where to go in the long run. They create, refine, and craft those those ideas. They work with others to get those ideas up and running. They inspire everyone around them to be better people, librarians, and community members. I don’t know why, but all of this makes me think of the Matt Foley sketch from Saturday Night Live. Maybe Matt Foley lit a fire in those characters in the sketch?
My mind tells me that there is a (sort of) clear path ahead for my life as a librarian. I want to be involved in leadership. I’m pretty good at that stuff and I want to get better. I want to be the toppermost of the poppermost. Here’s to the beginning of this journey. I don’t know where I’m exactly going but I know that I’ll work hard to get there.