How to Identify Your Library Leaders

Megan Hartline —  May 7, 2015 — 1 Comment
Photograph of large-scale Athena stone statue topped with gold headdress

cc by-sa Dennis Jarvis

You need more leaders at your library! The best way to squash the curse of competence is to foster more leadership in your team.

I wish every day for a new department manager to spring out of my forehead fully formed, but in reality, it’s my responsibility as a library leader to develop new leaders. The quandary is how to identify leaders before they take on a leadership role. Here’s my quick and dirty guide to identifying potential leaders.

Leadership Attributes

Look for these characteristics of leadership. People who will become good leaders in your library demonstrate these qualities even in non-leadership roles.

Engagement: leaders connect with people. Who on your team develops and maintains good relationships with users and colleagues?

Conviction: leaders persuade others to further the mission of the organization. Who on your team speaks with conviction about the mission of the library?

Invention: leaders suggest solutions. Who on your team brings up good ideas?

Initiative: leaders take those solutions and act to make them happen. Who on your team takes ownership of new projects?

Developing Leaders

You’ve identified potential leaders – now what? The best way to develop leaders is by giving them projects that let them take on bite-sized amounts of leadership responsibility. This can be leading a task force, making a new project happen, or representing your library in the wider community.

I’m particularly fond of encouraging potential leaders on my team to take on a teaching role. If they do something well in the library (like give great customer service), I ask them to deliver a training session. Instruction is a growth opportunity for the trainer, and the session spreads their strengths through the organization.

As your potential leaders take on new projects, celebrate their success and name that success for what it is: leadership!

In addition to work responsibilities, there’s also a lot of professional development opportunities out there for library leaders! Look for our post next week rounding up current library leadership offerings.

Megan Hartline


Megan Hartline (@awrybrarian on Twitter) is a librarian in Denver, Colorado. In addition to librarianship, Megan's background is in nonprofit leadership. She would love to visit your library to talk about management, workflows, or customer service.

Trackbacks and Pingbacks:

  1. How to Get Library Leadership Experience (Without Managing Employees) « Library Lost & Found - November 3, 2015

    […] prepared you to take on a next-level managerial role. Check out our guide for library managers on how to identify emerging leaders, and think about how your experiences demonstrate qualities like engagement, conviction, and […]

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