Library Leaders Institute II: A Unique Leadership Learning Experience

Last May, I participated in the Library Leaders Institute II, and found it to be the best leadership development exercise I’ve ever done. Unlike other leadership seminars I’ve attended, LLI2 focused on the personal as well as the professional aspects of my life, and has helped me to build a vision for my future that I’m really excited about.

One of my fellow participants, Emma Cross, authored the following article which has been published in the current issue of OLA.Access. Enjoy!

Library Leaders Institute II (LLI2) is a library leadership retreat held May 3 to 5, 2009, at the Huff Estates, Bloomfield, Ontario. It is a mid-career leadership development program which provides participants with the opportunity to connect and talk freely with others facing similar work situations and problems in an intimate small group setting. On Sunday afternoon, May 3, 2009, a diverse group of eight participants from different library sectors met for the first time. With a mix of personalities and backgrounds, the stage was set for a lively discussion and learning environment.

The program was largely based on the book Becoming a Resonant Leader: Develop Your Emotional Intelligence, Renew Your Relationships, and Sustain Your Effectiveness, by Annie McKee, Richard Boyatzis, and Frances Johnson (Harvard Business School Publishing, 2008). The focus of discussion was how to improve personal capacity for leadership by building and sustaining healthy relationships, and how to sustain effective leadership in the face of often daunting responsibilities and challenges. The book was well chosen for the purpose of the workshop. A resonant leader establishes a meaningful connection with colleagues and staff which is an important message in the modern workplace when most people spend the majority of their time alone in front of a computer. In addition, the book focuses on the development of a personal and career mission statement and action plan. Thus the retreat also offered the opportunity for participants to identify and consider their own career objectives.

Participants benefited from the presence of three interesting facilitators:

• Vicki Whitmell, Legislative Librarian at the Ontario Legislature and past Executive Director of CLA and adjunct Professor at University of Toronto, Faculty of Information

• Dr. Vicki Williamson, Dean, University Library, University of Saskatchewan. Dr. Williamson is actively engaged in researching library leadership and runs an in-house leadership program at the University of Saskatchewan which is open to all library staff

• Judith Johnson, a Toronto-based life coach and psychotherapist
Participants had the option of an hour-long, one-on-one meeting with Judith to discuss any personal issues or obstacles they were facing in relation to their work and leadership activities. Career development is closely tied to personal development and often overcoming personal challenges is key to becoming an effective leader.

Participants have reported that LLI2 was very different from other leadership courses they have experienced. Importantly, LLI2 provided a library-based perspective on leadership. Kimberly Silk, Data Librarian at the University of Toronto, comments: “The culture of our profession is unique, both in who we are as leaders, what leaders might look like in our environment and the kinds of people and personality types we might be leading”. Similarly, David Whelan, Manager of Legal Information at the Law Society of Upper Canada, says: “The challenges of leading knowledge workers are easier to discuss, I think, if you’re talking with people who are also trying to lead knowledge workers.” The focus given to the link between personal and professional leadership was very useful as was the positive small-group dynamic which provided the opportunity for meaningful connection.

After three days of thoughtful reflection in the beautiful surroundings (and the close proximity of the Huff Estates winery certainly fuelled at least some of the philosophizing on the nature of leadership!), participants left with a deeper understanding of the nature of leadership. Also, due to the work done on personal vision and career action plans, many participants left with an enhanced understanding of their career goals. But the leadership learning didn’t stop there: a positive outcome of LLI2 is that participants have kept in touch both in person and online. Follow-up meetings have been held in Toronto in June and September. Those not able to attend in person have been present via conference call. Connections have also been established through the LinkedIn networking site.

On a personal note, at the beginning of the retreat all participants were encouraged to write down what they hoped to learn from the experience. Looking back on my notes, my hope was to think and reflect on ways to sustain a productive and rewarding career over the long term. The institute provided me with ideas but also inspiration, motivation, and on-going support to build renewal and reflection into my professional practise.

More information about Library Leadership Institute II can be found at Plans have not yet been made for Library Leaders Institute III but the series will continue as a place for participants to meet for open discussion and personal and professional development.

Emma Cross is the Cataloguing Librarian, Manager of the Cataloguing Unit, Technical Services Dept., Carleton University Library.