We are working with a national organization to develop common competencies for urban public librarians/leaders and to match these to the offerings of LIS programs as a foundation for selection and development of future leaders.
As we review the reams and reams of lists of competencies for professional librarians (and every organization seems to have at least one), there are of course commonalities regardless of preferred work environment or position. Some also add personal qualities necessary for success.
These competencies tend to focus on the knowledge, skills and abilities necessary for success as a librarian. Employers, on the other hand, are also looking at potential for success in the organization, in our changing enterprise, which requires community connections, strategic orientations and flexibility.
We have recently begun reviewing the work of Mary Crossan, Jeffrey Gandz and Gerard Seijts of the University of Western Ontario’s Richard Ivey School of Business (The cross-enterprise leader, Ivey Business Journal, July/August, 2008). “Visualize a leader with virtues such as courage and integrity, as well as the five key types of intelligence, and you’ve got a clear picture of the cross-enterprise leader. So equipped, such a leader has what it takes to adopt the enterprise-wide perspective that is necessary to make the right decisions for creating and delivering value to all stakeholders.”
“The cross-enterprise leader is someone who, at any level of leadership, sees the issues and analyzes them and then acts with the interests and perspectives of the total enterprise in mind, including any networks or alliances of other enterprises in which it helps create and deliver stakeholder value. He or she avoids narrow business unit, functional or geographical interests in favor of doing the right thing for the enterprise, even if compensation or other reward systems suggest something different.”
Strategic, Business, People and Organizational Skills
As a minimum librarian/leaders require the knowledge, understanding of key concepts and skills in four key areas of executive competence: strategic, business, people and organizational. These are of course undergirded by high general intellect, which many studies have previously noted as critical to one’s ability to continue to learn (note the word ability as distinct from desire or orientation).
Business intelligence is what LIS programs should perhaps do best. They instill an understanding of the nuts and bolts, the operations, of libraries. But business intelligence also includes the economics of the business model of libraries (whether for- or not-for-profit), how value is created, how the various components relate to each other, the notion of competition, customer needs and how one leverages resources for improvement. A graduate may be able to make the various parts of shirt, but can he or she make the entire shirt and know how it fits together with a wardrobe?
So with business intelligence one has the ability to work in the business (the library industry or sector). Strategic intelligence, on the other hand, enables one to work on the business. In other words, a graduate can articulate what constitutes success. And what drives success. What constitutes best practice across the sector? What needs to be changed in the industry? What results from the environmental scan? What are the implications? How does one choose among strategies? How are options created that promote flexibility and resiliency? Can recent graduates balance business and strategic intelligence, that is, analysis with intuition and creativity?
Organizational intelligence enables librarians to understand how the organization works and how to work the organization, the “social architecture” that drives the organization. This would be the basic management course – structures, procedures, compensation systems. As well as understanding complex change and how to lead it. Organizational intelligence underscores systems thinking, understanding how change in one area will affect another area. Organizational intelligence also requires deep knowledge of power, influence and power and when and how to use them.
People Intelligence involves the capacity to understand individuals and teams, and what it takes to enable them to contribute optimally. People intelligence includes self-confidence, self-worth, knowing who you are, with fierce determination as well as humility (see Jim Collins’ Good to great…). Individuals with people intelligence respect and foster diversity (including of opinion), create win-win situations for staff, mobilize commitment and action, and indeed use people intelligence to realize organizational and strategic intelligence.
We have begun to map the competencies for urban librarians to these intelligences and see much potential for recruitment, hiring and development. We also see many gaps in our traditional approaches to leader development.
I welcome examples of different approaches to competencies and performance management such as these. This could be the basis for curricular review and development with continued professional development and education.