Saturday, September 17, 2011

Leading From The Stacks: Words from McChrystal

This is the third post in the series Leading From The Stacks, an examination of leadership in the library industry. It was initiated by my course Leading From Any Position.

If you are a leader, the people you've counted on will help you out. And if you are a leader the people who count on you need you on your feet.
- Stanley McChrystal

As I mentioned in the last post in this series, I think it is always important to look to leaders who inspired. you. I count Andy Woodworth as a leader in the library community. His many awards and accolades are certainly well deserved. I was not surprised to find posts on his blog about leadership, but my curiosity was piqued when I noticed that he had a Ted Talk by Stanley McChrystal, former Commander of the U.S. forces in Afghanistan. While undeniably a leader, I don't always expect to see the intersection of military interests within the sphere of librarianship. However, watching the video and reading Andy's comments, I found that the intersection made perfect sense.

Many of McChrystal's comments struck a cord with me. There were some that were expected, along the lines of never leaving a falling soldier behind and good leaders let you fail without being a failure. But I was really impressed with what McChrystal had to say about being a leader in a rapidly changing time in history. Which makes sense, both the type of warfare that we are engaged in and the makeup of our troops are constantly changing. And, of course, the technology used to communicate is evolving as well.

Andy picked up on this as well, succinctly summarizing the talk as the need of leaders to use our technological innovations to build trust and a consensus of a common purpose. Andy specifically related this to the dialog that librarians are creating with publishers on the best way to lend ebooks in libraries, which is a difficult conversation to have.

But the idea of leveraging technology to build a common goal within an organization or institution is an important lesson in 21st century leadership. Although librarians don't all work together in a physical space, we have tools to allow us to engage in conversations regardless of location and work towards the common goals of efficient information access, effective information literacy instruction and protecting basic freedoms.

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