Last week Greg Lambert posted a thoughtful piece on leadership over on 3 Geeks and a Law Blog.  The post, If You’re Not at the Table, You’re on the Menu reminded readers that it is easy to be left out of the decision-making conversations within our organizations.

While the reluctance to assert leadership skills is not limited to information professionals, it can seem as though the situation is most prolific within the ranks of librarians.  Perhaps the issue lies in the inherent confusion that a good manager automatically makes for a good leader.  Too often good managers get moved up into leadership roles.

This is an uncomfortable spot because leadership requires more than management. Over dinner with a close friend last week we discussed this same issue.  Her position is one within a foundation that is immersed deeply in external political pressures.  We discussed how managing time, projects and staff are worthy accomplishments.  However, that administrative skill set is not what is required in a leader.

A leader must embrace the dicta of vision and goals.  A leader defines the path and ensures that needed resources are available.  Good leaders let good managers accomplish the ditch digging and road building that makes the path easy to traverse.

The value of having a seat at the table goes well beyond eating the feast.  It means you get to have input on the menu.  As resources face continued internal pressure and competition, ensuring you a way to ensure that your needs are heard is essential to not just the next feast, but to the daily meals.

Lambert points out how easy it is to seem irrelevant without putting effort into being heard.

Sometimes it’s a cluelessness in reading the situation, and understanding that the lack of engagement is causing the powers-that-be to see them, or their department as expendable. I’ve seen it during leadership transitions when managers do not understand that the way it’s always been done, is no longer the standard within the organization. I’ve seen it during downturns in business when shifts in business models make certain services obsolete, yet department heads keep churning out irrelevant work product as though nothing has changed.

The easy path here is listen, learn, and adjust.  Of course, that is easy to say and harder to do.  It is even harder to do in light of limited staffing and too much work and every other valid but not-so-valid excuse we can articulate.

Drop kick the excuses and embrace the essentials of value communication.  When you do that you may even be able to sit at the table and dictate your favorite dishes.

Constance Ard
May 15, 2016