Are you an effective leader?

What do you think of when you think of a leader? Do you view yourself as a leader? Leaders do not come in one type or behave in a particular way. There is no set formula for leading or creating leaders. You do not have to stand before everyone and proclaim loudly in order to be a leader. Some leaders lead quietly and from the side.

Are you a "born leader"? If not, you can develop skills to help you become an effective leader. Just as you become a better teacher through experience, you'll become more comfortable as a leader over time. Don't try to become a different person. The leadership styles you choose and use must fit you and your personality. Don’t worry, there are many types and strategies for leadership. We will examine a few broad-sweeping categories and descriptions.

eye means readRead Miller, Pat (Sept 2002). New Kid on the Block. School Library Media Activities Monthly; 19(1).
The lists in this article are over a decade old. What changes are needed; update the lists to reflect today's conditions.

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Are there many types of leaders?

Effective leaders persuade their co-workers to give up some amount of their personal interests and commit themselves to the larger tasks and goals of the group. This is also a quality of a truly professional school library media specialist.

Leaders find or take their roles in different patterns.

Appointed Leaders. Some leaders are hired and appointed. They are in charge of the group. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that they will be respected.

Example - the teacher librarian conducts a meeting of those people who use the library for after-school programs.

Expert Leaders. Expert leaders are recognized solely by virtue of their knowledge and inventiveness. They are respected because they have shown their expertise through example. They share worthwhile ideas that demonstrate understandings.

Example - the library media specialist recommends using an electronic database for a current events projects in the new social studies curriculum.

Interpersonal Leaders. Many lead by employing strong interpersonal skills; getting along with everyone, being highly trusted, and assisting others to develop their potential. Some lead in making good decisions and persuading or inspiring others.

Example - a seventh grade teacher approaches the teacher librarian in the hall and asks for help downloading digital camera pictures.

Social/Informal Leaders. Organizations (schools included) have their social or interpersonal leaders; the person who makes plans for the get-togethers after work and a motivational leader who cheers everyone on or keeps spirits high. This person is the “informal” leader who encourages everyone with “let’s do it” after the “boss” has conveyed their instructions. This is the person who knows how to get things done. They are sometimes the consoling co-worker who helps with someone’s personal problems.

Example - the teacher librarian is well-known for her snack casserole which includes M&Ms, raisins, and nuts served in a covered casserole dish along with a spatula and Dixie cups. It always seems to appear when difficult decisions need to be made.

As the school library program administrator you were hired for a leadership role, however your effectiveness will be determined by your ability to work with others.

eye means readRead Bermuda, Allison (Sept. 2006). Where Does Your Authority Come From: Empowering the Library Media Specialist as a True Partner in Student Achievement. School Library Media Activities Monthly; 22(1).

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What are task-oriented and relationship-oriented leadership styles?

Leadership roles vary. Regardless of your personality, you can identify a leadership style that works for you. Keep in mind that a leader's style may change in different situations or to meet varying needs (Hersey & Blanchard, 1969).

There are two attitudinal styles of leadership: the extremes of a task-oriented or a relationship-oriented leader (Blake and Mouton, 1985).

Task-oriented Style. Some situations call for a task-oriented leader who can plan, organize, and coordinate group activities. A task-oriented leader establishes group controls and usually talks the most. Sometimes a task-oriented leader is not the most liked group member, because they are pushing others to perform. They may be seen as overly critical or even antagonistic.

Example - a state grant is available for interdisciplinary approaches to reading across the curriculum. The principal has found out that the grant is almost a "sure thing", but no one seems to have time to devote to it. The teacher librarian volunteers to coordinate writers, make writing assignments, and assemble the draft.

Relationship-Oriented Style. A relationship-oriented leader eases group tension, soothes bruised egos, and keeps the group bound together. This person is often the second most active person within a work group, but they are the best liked. This person mends fences and builds enthusiasm. They also anticipate conflicts and build bridges.

Example - the coordinator of the yearbook and the director of the theatre and vocal music program are arguing over reserving the video cameras for key school events. The library media specialist calmly brings them together and helps them identify priorities and formulate a compromise. At the same time, the teacher librarian points out copyright issues that both teachers should be aware of in their production planning.

These two leader types, relationship and task-oriented, are not competitive. They often work closely together, yet they are independent of each other. Task-oriented leaders are not the opposite of relationship-oriented leaders. A leader who works on becoming more considerate, does not have to correspondingly become less structured. Occasionally, one person fills both of these leader roles within a work-group. In reality, leaders seem to possess varied amounts of both of these personality style patterns.

Relationship-oriented leaders are most effective when the organization is undergoing some stress, but things are not awful. When the situation is in total chaos, a leader must take charge and get things job done. When things are running very smoothly, a relationship-oriented leadership style may seem to be over done (i.e., looking for problems to solve when none exist or making things worse). In this case, a task-oriented leader might be better. Effective leaders adapt to the situation that they are in.

Blake and Mouton (1985) advocated that the best style is a high task and high relationship-orientation.

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How do leadership styles impact school library programs?

"Leadership for school librarians can be reflected in many ways. It can be through such things as communication with administrators, involvement in improving student reading and literacy, providing access to resources and facilities, involvement in writing instruction, guiding instruction toward inquiry, or ongoing professional development." Levitov, Deborah (Feb. 2010). Editorial: The Dream Job Description - A Call for Leadership. School Library Monthly 26(6). 4.

In addition to exploring the personality types of leaders, management and leadership studies have explored the way that a leader provides direction, implements plans, or motivates people to participate. Bass and Valenzi (1974) identified three styles: (1) authoritarian, (2) participative, and (3) delegative.

Authoritarian (autocratic) leadership. This style is used when a leader tells employees what is to be done and how they want it done. No input or advice is sought. This could be appropriate when time is extremely limited, and employees are well motivated. The leader tactic should never be abusive (i.e., yelling, using demeaning language, or leading by threats or abuse of power). If one has the time, then use of one of the other two tactical styles would be recommended.

Example - the superintendent wants circulation statistics by noon for a meeting in Indianapolis. The library media specialist is teaching a class and directs the media clerk to print out the reports.

Participative (democratic) leadership. This would involve one or more employees together with the leader in determining what to do and how to do it. The manager maintains their authority by making the final decision, but seeks the input of the fellow employees that are involved. Using this style is not a weakness, and can be a sign of strength and gain respect. Participative leadership is best used when the leader has some of the information and fellow workers have some of the information. Teaming their knowledge and expertise allows for a better decision and implementation process.

Example - the teacher librarian is designing a leisure reading area as part of the high school library renovation. A group of students is asked to participate in planning this new area.

Delegative (lais sez faire) leadership. This style involves allowing the employees to make the decision. The leader is still responsible for the decisions that are made. Delegative leadership is employed when workers are able to analyze the situation and determine what needs to be done plus how to do it. Leaders use this style knowing that they cannot do everything. A leader sets priorities and then delegates certain tasks to other workers. Also used when the leader needs to be at another place doing other things.

Example - a library volunteer has indicated an interest in redesigning the showcase at the entrance to the library. You tell them that you'd like something related to connecting math and reading, then allow them to work independently on the design.

Depending on the situation and people involved, good leaders use all three of these styles. A leader might tell fellow workers that a procedure being followed in the library media center does not work correctly and that a new one must be established (authoritarian). They might ask for workers ideas and input on creating a new procedure (participative). Finally, they could delegate different tasks in order to implement a new procedure (delegative).

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What factors impact leadership style?

Leaders can and do employ different leadership styles. The forces that influence which leadership strategy is effective include (Clark, 1997/2000):

Group members may prefer a participative leader; however, an autocratic leader may be more effective or productive. On the other hand, democratic leaders can be as or more productive than authoritarian leaders. When leaders have good relations with co-workers, leaders have power, and the task is simple and clear.

Management studies have generally shown that group members like a democratic leader best. In some circumstances, however, a dictatorial leader can be more effective or productive. The democratic leader is usually "almost as productive" as the authoritarian leader; in some instances, he/she is even more productive.

Research (Fiedler & Chemers, 1974; Fiedler, 1978) has determined that task-oriented leaders are more effective than relationship-oriented leaders when the situation is highly favorable (good relations with followers, leader has power, and the task is simple and clear) or highly unfavorable (the conditions are the opposite).

Kipnis and Schmidt (1984) identified three common tactics for influencing people.

People tend to use hard tactics when they have the advantage, when they expect the other person to resist, or when the other person had done something wrong. People usually employ soft tactics when they are at a disadvantage, when resistance is expected, and when they are looking out for themselves. People use rational tactics when they are dealing with equals, when irrational resistance is not expected, and when the goal benefits them and others as well.

Kipnis and Schmidt also identified three types of managers:

People in power sometimes employ hard tactics when dealing with resistant subordinate workers. Hard tactics also tend to be used by people who lack self-confidence. However hard tactics are rarely effective and tend to alienate others. Soft tactics are also viewed negatively by most people. Rational tactics are the best choice for effective leaders.

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Check Your Understanding

eye means readRead Everhart, Nancy (Mar/Apr 2007). Leadership: School Library Media Specialists as Effective School Leaders (PDF document, Access requires login). Knowledge Quest; 35(4), 54-57.
Article discusses ways that school library media specialists exhibit leadership and emphasizes the importance of administrator support.

info powerInformation Power: Program Administration - Principle 1. The library media program supports the mission, goals, objectives, and continuous improvement of the school. (p. 100, 101)

What kind of leader are you?

Examine the many styles discussed on this page and come up with a description of your style. Use specific library media situations to describe your style.

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woman at computerMake It Real r

Interview a library media specialist.

Ask him or her about their management style. Ask if their style has evolved over time. Discuss how they think they are perceived by their teachers. If possible, as teachers to describe the leadership style of their library media specialist.

Read More About It

Zsiray Jr., Stephen (Nov/Dec 2003). Leadership and Library Media: A Grass-Roots Approach. Knowledge Quest; 32(2), 14-16.

Bertland, Linda. Library Media Center Management. Resources for School Librarians.
Linked index to policy manuals and other management tools for school libraries.

Leadership / Management Styles

Clark, Don (1997 / 2000). Leadership Styles. Big Dog & Little Dog’s Performance Juxtaposition.
One section of an online leadership guide: The Art and Science of Leadership.

Leadership Skills at Mind Tools.
The old way of viewing leadership was that leaders are born; the new view is that through patience, persistence and hard work, one can be a truly effective leader.

Management Styles at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
Managers have to perform many roles in an organization and how they handle various situations will depend on their style of management. A management style is an overall method of leadership used by a manager. There are two sharply contrasting styles that will be broken down into smaller subsets.


Decision Making

McNamara, Carter. Problem Solving and Decision Making. Free Management Library.
Much of what people do is solve problems and make decisions.

Making Decisions from the U.S. Small Business Administration

Force Field Analysis at Mind Tools
Force Field Analysis is a method for listing, discussing, and evaluating the various forces for and against a proposed change. When a change is planned, Force Field Analysis helps you look at the big picture by analyzing all of the forces impacting the change and weighing the pros and cons.
Related Sites:
Force Field Analysis from Iowa State University Extension
Force Field Analysis at Kent State University

Stress Management

Stress Management from University at Buffalo, NY
Written for college students, this contains some good general information and techniques for reducing stress.

Fontana, David. Professional Life Stress Scale
This stress scale must be treated as a useful guide rather than as a precise instrument.
The Other Scale:
Holmes and Rahe Stress Scale - also known as the Social Readjustment Rating Scale (SRRS).

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