Thursday, April 12, 2018

What Kind of Librarian Leader Are You?

Last March 23, 2018, the University of the Philippines School of Library and Information Science (UP SLIS) hosted the 39th Gabriel A. Bernardo Memorial Lecture. There were three invited panelists who expanded and expounded on the theme, Library Leadership at the Crossroads. The respected licensed librarian panelists for the lecture were Dr. Vernon Totanes, Director of the Rizal Library; Mr. Michael Pinto, President of the Philippine Librarians Association; and Mrs. Fides Abad, licensed librarian, retired school librarian and administrator, and professional skills trainer. They were tasked to discuss leadership in the Library and Information  Science (LIS) profession today, particularly looking at the issue of the appointment of Mr. Gilbert Adriano, a Human Resource manager from the Davao City Hall as the director of the National Library of the Philippines.

I was not there at the lecture in UP Diliman, but peers and colleagues in the UP SLIS posted photos, snippets, sound bites and a live video of the panelists' input on leadership. If you are following the issue of the #NationalNonLibrarian in social media, and you have seen and/or heard Totanes and Pinto during the lecture,  both gentlemen were consistent on their stand on the issue though each has a different approach in dealing about it. I will not flesh this out because much has been said already. What we need to hear are more voices other than the ones we have heard over and over again.

The links and history of the #NationalNonLibrarian issue can be reviewed and revisited in Totanes' blog and the PLAI's Official Facebook Page. I encourage you to go back and reread, if you need a refresher. For this blog post, I am focusing on the leadership styles that I took away from the three panelists. More than the pressing issue at hand, the three library leaders have displayed their brand of leadership. For LIS professionals, this would make for an interesting research and study. Younger LIS professionals may find a mentor, a coach or a lodi (idol) LIS professional to follow or emulate.

1. From Dr. Totanes, I realised how important communication skills can be in a position of leadership. Totanes knows how to use language and in great effects to media marketing and promotion. I have a friend who is a poet and philosopher tell me once, that a man who can wield language has the most power in this world. How true!

A leader knows what he is thinking about and is able to clearly and lucidly communicate this to his or her intended audience.

Totanes is also quick to action, decisive and approaches an issue in a let's-get-this-done-because-really-it's-as-simple-as-123. No beating around the bush. The agenda is laid down. Take it for what it is. No room for sentiment or emotions. Trabaho lang. Ang pikon at balat sibuyas, ay...sorry na lang!

A leader sticks to the issue and faces it head on.

2. From Mr. Pinto, I realised the value of listening and consultation in leadership. This recognition of working in teams, collaborating with different people and allowing each to lend a voice in the conversation are all hallmarks of a compassionate and creative leader. As President of PLAI, Pinto must really listen to his co-leaders. Pinto is not PLAI and PLAI is not Pinto. He knows what public service entails after making the shift from private institution to government agency.

A leader listens. A leader works with people. A leader does not think he is the only one fighting a cause or running a project all by himself.

Now I know where this man from Cagayan gets his charm.

3. From Mrs. Abad, I realised the relevance of taking things into perspectives not just one's own, but from others and factors that influence them too. The approach she used to analyse the issue on leadership as applied to the issue of the #NationalNonLibrarian is the Iceberg technique where patterns of behavior, socio-cultural trends and aspects are considered as well as mental models that play a role in decision making. I like this technique because it makes for a good start in clarifying biases and prejudices. Then, one can move on to a more informed process of filing a complaint and in the issuance of statements of concern.

A leader looks at the big picture. Always considering the systems, structures and politics that shape human behavior.

In the 21st century, much is expected from us, LIS professionals. There are events and occasions where, like Dr. Totanes, we need to be decisive. We need to master language and the nuances of communication. Our profession is people oriented, thus, we need to learn how to listen well like Mr. Pinto. The mere act of sincere listening is an act of leadership. And then, like Mrs. Abad, we need to first examine our motives and see how it fits in the greater scheme of things. Leaders reflect and discern on actions that can contribute to the greater good.

What leadership style or approach do you adhere or believe in? What kind of librarian leader are you?

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