There are differences between leading and managing. How often do we stop to think about what those are and how we can apply them for best results? On today’s show, I speak with Diana Weaver, Director of the Basehor Library in Kansas. She shares how leadership and management are distinctive but complimentary.
We can use this knowledge to create organizational structures that really work. I enjoyed this conversation filled with information we all should know and I think you will, too.
This podcast is brought to you by the School of Library and Information Management from Emporia State University, where library leaders are created, with program sites in Las Vegas, Nevada; Sioux Falls, South Dakota; Denver, Colorado; Salt Lake City, Utah; Portland, Oregon; Boise, Idaho; and Emporia and Overland Park, Kansas.
This is Adriane Herrick Juarez. You’re listening to Library Leadership Podcast, where we talk about libraries, and leadership, and speak with guests who share their ideas, innovations, and strategic insights into the profession.
There are differences between leading and managing. How often though, do we stop to think about what those are and how we can apply them for best results. On today’s show I speak with Diana Weaver, Director of the Basehor Library in Kansas. She shares how leadership and management are distinctive, but complimentary. We can use this knowledge to create organizational structures that really work. I enjoyed this conversation filled with information we all should know and I think you will, too.
If you would like to support this content and more like it, you can become a patron at LibraryLeadershipPodcast.com. Enjoy the show.
Welcome to the show, Diana.
Thank you for having me. I’m very happy to be here.
Question #1: It’s great to have you and I’m excited to talk to you today about leadership and management, and the fact that there is a difference. Can you tell us what this is about? 01:37
I started thinking about this idea of management and leadership as two different skill sets after reading an article by John Cotter. It’s called, What Leaders Really Do. It was published in the Harvard Business Review in 1990. Some of the article is a little dated but the principles Cotter introduces are still very relevant.
I was thinking about the average workday of a librarian, whether in a public, academic, or special library and how it’s filled with responsibilities that can be so different throughout the day. One minute you’re changing lightbulbs in the bathroom, the next you’re thinking about future innovation and growth.
So efficient, day-to-day management of the library and effective leadership are both crucial to the library’s success. So the question is, what’s the difference between the two and how can one person do both?
Cotter explains how the two roles are complementary, yet separate. So basically, he defines management as coping with complexity. Whereas leadership is about coping with change. In any business situation, and I believe libraries have to be thought of as a business in order to be fully effective.
The responsibilities can be grouped into three sets for leaders and managers. One, is deciding what needs to be done. Two, is creating networks of people and relationships that can accomplish a to-do list, or an agenda. And then trying to ensure that people actually do the job. Leaders and managers fulfill these responsibilities in different ways.
Question #2: So, you talk about how libraries are like small businesses. Can you tell us a little bit more about that? 03:21
I think it helps define the process of how things work in libraries if we compare it to a small business. I think it helps us set our priorities. For example, for both libraries and small businesses, building a satisfied and loyal customer base is crucial. So is facilities maintenance, landscaping, parking lots, plumbing, and so on. We both have employees, so we need to think about wages, health insurance.
We have to schedule our employees. We need to think about their skill sets, how to keep them sharp, and how to utilize their talents. We have responsibilities with budgets and finances. And, we have to maintain an inventory control system. I think libraries have very impressive inventory control systems. We know where all our inventory is, who has borrowed it, and when we expect they’ll bring it back.
I think we can thank Melvil Dewey, and the Library of Congress for part of that, but we also use some very complicated technology. We use these inventory systems to serve our customer base and improve the items we offer through careful purchasing and managing product turnover, which we of course call, weeding.
Question #3: Absolutely. That’s such an interesting way to think about it. And, running libraries like small businesses means creating organizational structure and communicating that effectively with the job of manager being important. So, let’s go into the managerial role. What does that look like? 04:53
Running the business of the library for an effective manager means creating an organizational structure and most importantly, communicating effectively. So, basically you need to define the tasks that need to get done. Create a list of job duties for staff, make it available to them, and go over it with them often. Then decide the reporting relationships, who reports to who, and make sure everyone knows who’s in charge. And finally, monitor implementation. Which means, following up.
My favorite management technique is walking around, observing, and modeling the behavior I want to see from my staff. This helps me make sure everything is done. And, I would add that my experiences convince me that managers should not assume the identity of a peer. The object is to be respected, not necessarily liked.
The best managers approach the job as teachers and mentors. And, a manager should project self-confidence, and having a stable framework of simple, easy to understand policies and procedures is essential for that.
Managers should also learn to evaluate the data we get from our systems and again, a manager should learn to be a good communicator and a network builder.
Question #4: And, when you’re acting as a leader in this same situation, it’s different. What are you looking for here? 06:24
So a leader needs to step back. A visual that I often use to switch from being manager to leader is the idea of analyzing a situation from the balcony, or from the top row of the bleachers. That’s where you can identify patterns and relationships. And, you can more easily identify what needs to be changed.
And remember leadership is about coping with change. It helps to remind yourself of the library’s vision or of what’s important in the big picture. I think it’s important to remember that change always means loss in some way. That when there is a change, it is going to be felt as loss by some people.
So, I try to keep that in mind. I also keep in mind that a good ending always leads to a good new beginning. I would recommend a book called, Pre-Suasion, a Revolutionary Way to Influence and Persuade, by Robert Cialdini. In this book he talks about pre-suading people. Or in other words, preparing people to be receptive to a message before they experience it.
It’s an understanding that it’s not necessarily the message itself that changes minds, but the key moment before you deliver that message. It’s like preparing a seedbed before you plant the seed.
Another understanding I learned from this book is that you can’t always alter attitudes, beliefs, or experiences but you can often redirect the focus of attention before a relevant or important action.
So, when we speak about change as loss, instead of focusing only on the loss also focus on celebration.
Question #5: So, leadership and management are distinctive, but complimentary. Can you tell us how these operate together on a regular basis? 08:13
I’ll compare and contrast three ideas here from Cotter’s work, and I hope your listeners don’t mind some sports analogies. But, you can also think of it in terms of an orchestra. Management is about organizing your team. It’s like Patrick Mchomes calling the next play on the football field. The play may go off as planned or he may have to rearrange people at the last minute, depending on circumstances.
Management is about negotiating the interdependency between people and circumstances. I think it’s important to recognize that people’s circumstances include family obligations, sick parents, or sick children, cars that break down, and so on. And, to be as flexible as possible.
When managing a staff, that negotiation includes knowing your staff’s individual strengths and weaknesses, and developing some training and continuing education to help them be the best they can be at work.
It includes empowering your staff and making sure there’s at least one part of their job that they absolutely love. And, people need to know the work they do matters. Reward with gratitude, recognition, opportunity, cookies, whatever each individual may need to feel appreciated.
Something that is important to both management and leadership is to recognize the influencers in your organization. It’s often not who you think it is. Leadership is about aligning your partners, and the people who exert the influence should always be aligned as one of your partners.
Alignment is different than organizing because alignment means creating networks of relationships that can move the organization in a new direction. Remember as a leader you’re on top of the bleachers so you can see how the whole team moves down the field.
Or, you’re on the balcony listening to how the whole orchestra comes together. Alignment gets people engaged in a way that organizing rarely does. Everyone is aiming at the same target and feels supported.
The important thing to keep in mind about your job as a leader is that you must do everything you can to assure other peoples’ success. Effectively, management is about achieving organizational goals by controlling and problem solving. Think about the library’s budget, management means breaking it down into departments and solving problems as they come up.
Leadership means having a vision and achieving it through motivation and inspiration by keeping people moving in the right direction, even if the plumbing breaks and you need to get it fixed. I think it’s very important for the leader to control the narrative to tell the story. Let people know that even though there may be a problem, we’re going to achieve our vision anyway. Get everyone on board with that, as we talked about earlier, refocus attention if necessary.
And finally, leadership and management are distinctive, but complementary in the amount of energy required. Management requires consistency, and a slow, steady style. But leadership requires bursts of energy. When you know you need to show leadership, focus on a burst of energy. If you’re Patrick Mchomes you break through the line and you make the touchdown. If you’re a soloist in an orchestra, you make your solo unforgettable.
I think knowing the right time to turn that energy on is the key to balancing management and leadership. It can keep you from being exhausted.
Question #6: I like both the sports and the orchestra analogies, those are fabulous and a great way to describe what each role does. So as leaders and managers, how do we model the behavior we want to see? 12:01
That’s a really good question because it’s critical for both leaders and managers to model the behavior that will make our organization successful. People will be watching you and where you spend your money, so try to spend local—where you spend your time, so use it well. And also, value other people’s time. They’ll notice what you ask and what you decide not to ask—what you comment on, and what you let go, how you follow-up, what you celebrate, how you increase your own skills and knowledge, and if you share information rather than engage in gossip.
And, my personal belief is that gossip can destroy the culture of an organization and I just don’t allow it. It’s understandable that we sometimes have to vent frustration, but managers and leaders should vent somewhere else and with someone safe. Make sure with your staff, its information you are sharing, not gossip.
Question #7: That’s good. As leaders and managers how do we create a healthy culture? I’m sure that’s part of it. 13:06
Yes, you’re right. I think we can agree that all work environments and work groups develop a culture for good or bad. As both a manager and a leader, you must deliberately work to build a culture of success in your library.
At my library we have a code of customer service that we go over at every staff meeting. We also have a code for staff. And, the way we treat each other within the library. It’s really simple: be kind to each other; use the Golden Rule; have each other’s back; and greet each other everyday with a smile.
Part of creating a healthy culture is having shared values and a shared language. So, these codes articulate our shared values and a shared language. Not long ago we had a lot of staff turnover so we made t-shirts that said, Basehor Library Staff Are Flexible and Resourceful. So, when we had to rearrange schedules, and sometimes scramble to fill shifts while training new staff, we’d say, Oh, yeah, we’re flexible and resourceful. That was our common language. We understood what was happening and that it would get better.
Healthy cultures need lots of humor. No one should take themselves too seriously. Always celebrate one of your team member’s successes and support each other in failure. As a leader I make it a practice to involve others in my projects. I might create a special team to tackle a specific project. I try to nurture leadership skills in others by letting others take the lead. I’ve had to learn to accept less than perfect solutions and accept things getting done in a way that maybe I wouldn’t have done it. But, by providing for others to learn and grow it helps to build a vibrant and creative culture.
And one more thing I would add is that a key skill for leaders and managers is knowing how to actively listen. I found that a good conversation starter is the Gallup Employee Engagement Survey, which I’ve used sometimes during yearly evaluation meetings. There are questions that give staff members a chance to rate how they experience their work. You can gain some very valuable insights about your staff and the culture of your workplace but you need to follow-up on what you learn.
Question #8: Healthy culture is so important, so I’m glad you’re talking about that. Is there anything else you’d like to share? 15:27
Well, I’ve learned over time that not everyone can be a manager. It takes a certain skill set, but everyone can be a leader. Positive, life-changing leadership is an acquired trait learned from others who know how to lead and lead well. I try to look for mentors and watch what they do. Leadership skills are learned through a process of self-development. So, I’m always open to learn new ideas.
Question #9: And, you already mentioned the book, Pre-Suasion, but I think you have another favorite resource you want to share, can you tell us about that? 16:02
My favorite book about leadership is, Leading Quietly: An Unorthodox Guide to Doing the Right Thing, by Joseph Badarraco. Leadership is personal, and by that I mean, our styles of leadership are different as we are different. So, Leading Quietly is a book that speaks to me.
Joseph Badarraco shares that there are four guiding principles. You don’t know everything so be realistic and don’t exaggerate how much you really understand. Accept you don’t know what you don’t know with modesty and humility. Learning an organization’s policies takes time, and [inaudible] is not a sign of weakness or cowardice.
The second thing is, you will be surprised. So, expect surprises. Make plans, but be prepared for them to change. We talked about the third one a little bit, keep an eye on the insiders. You should always know who has influence in your organization.
And, the fourth one is one that I think about a lot—it’s trust, but cut the cards. If you’re a card player you know what that means. Expect the best from people but be empathic enough to know that people are not always their best.
Question #10: Sounds like a great resource. Thank you so much for sharing that. Diana, in closing what does being a librarian mean to you, personally? 17:22
To me it means servicing others in an environment that encourages life-long learning and following individual passions. It means that I’m part of a profession that strives to welcome everyone and has resources for everyone to help themselves grow and make their lives better.
I can offer a book or story to someone that helps them understand and be more compassionate to others. I think we serve a higher purpose in that we stand for equality and democracy. And, we contribute to making society better through literature, through programs and through recognizing and celebrating each individual person.
Well said, Diana, it’s been fantastic having you on this show today to talk about leadership and management. And, I really liked learning about the differences and how they interplay with each other. So, thank you.
Thank you for having me. I’ve really enjoyed it.
It’s been great.
You’ve been listening to Library Leadership Podcast. I’m your host, Adriane Herrick Juarez. Our producer is Nate Vineyard. More episodes can be found at https://libraryleadershippodcast.com, where you can now subscribe to have new shows delivered right into your email inbox. You can also find the show on Apple iTunes, or wherever you get your podcasts. Thank you for listening. We’ll see you next time.