Finding the Everyday Leader Within

Betha Gutsche /

librarian with kids at computerThe word leadership connotes pinnacles of achievement reserved for war heroes, presidents and CEOs, rare heights beyond attainment for most of us. We would hesitate to raise a hand if asked, “are you completely comfortable with calling yourself a leader?”  This is the question that Drew Dudley, founder of Nuance Leadership Development Services, asks in his February 2012 TEDx Toronto presentation on Everyday Leadership.

We have made leadership into something bigger than us, something beyond us. We have made it about changing the world.”

The enormity of the concept of leadership serves as an excuse not to expect, recognize or practice leadership on an everyday level. From his own life experience, Dudley has come to recognize what he calls “lollipop moments”—small acts that can impact others in an unexpectedly big way. (You’ll have to watch the 6-minute video to hear his lollipop story.) We are all capable of acting as a catalyst to change another person’s understanding of the world and what they are capable of. This is especially true in the library field in the countless interactions with patrons and peers.

5 Steps to being an everyday leader

1. The first step is to know yourself and become aware of your power to impact others. Library work is ripe with opportunities for everyday leadership. Consider every Interaction with a patron or colleague as a potential act of leadership. Acknowledge that you can influence others in ways that may not be immediately apparent. Recognize that others may look to you as a role model, even if they don’t ask for instruction directly.

2. Understand that you don’t have to have a rock star personality to be good leader. It goes along with the “pinnacle of achievement” image that we tend to think of leaders as charismatic, larger-than-life and aggressive in pursuit of their goals. There certainly are leaders with those characteristics but there are many others who manifest leadership in quieter ways. Yes, introverts can be powerful leaders. If you need convincing, watch the TEDx talk from Susan Cain, author of Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking,

3. Realize that you can lead from any position in the workplace. Dispel the myth that “manager” equates with “leader.”  Leadership does not intrinsically adhere to any specific title or position. The work world is unfortunately filled with managers who do not know how to lead. Managers monitor organizational planning, performance and service goals. Leaders establish a vision and inspire others to work toward it.

4. Discover that it is possible to lead without authority. Leading from a management position does have the advantage of a degree of officially sanctioned power over others. However, if you understand that true leadership is not about wielding power, you can learn the skills needed to influence and motivate peers. Read Leading Equals, an article in the excellent Mind Tools collection, for pointers on mastering group dynamics, empowering team members, setting goals and supporting the success of the team effort.

5. Get inspired by the everyday leaders that abound in the library field. Library Journal’s Movers & Shakers is an 11-year chronicle of spotlights on the “extraordinary work” done by librarians and library staff to fulfill their personal visions of delivering the best service to their users. Each profile shines with the energy, enthusiasm and commitment of these everyday leaders. If you get inspired by a particular story and are motivated to activate your own inner leader, do let that person know that she/he was the catalyst that set you in motion.

Below are the results of a poll of WebJunction readers in April 2012. There were 389 responses, 63% of which from those in a supervisory or management position.


Take the poll: