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Monday, December 31, 2012

How different leaders can impact on the School Library

School libraries are undergoing a transformation and the teacher librarians that work in them need to be client focused and not resource or operations focused, to meet the needs of both the students and teachers that use their services (Winzenried, 2012; Welch, 2006).

Not dissimilar to a salesperson, the Teacher Librarian must deal with many different personalities throughout their day and work with all of them amicably in order to achieve their goals. In this changing landscape, teacher librarians need to be proactive people who look for opportunities, anticipate client needs, take action and persevere with problem resolution (Hartzell, 2000). A holistic leader can borrow techniques from Goleman’s six leadership styles to effectively implement innovation (Fullan, 2004; Winzenried, 2010). Daniel Goleman’s research synthesised leadership techniques into six key styles that related back to key emotional intelligence traits; Authoritative/Visionary, Coaching, Affiliative, Democratic, Pacesetting, Commanding.

Even though a teacher librarian has no real authority or official position as a leader in a school, they have tremendous opportunities to influence and drive change. Rather than leading from the middle, TL’s need to take on a more prominent and visual role within the organisation (Stephens, 2011). Eradicating that “occupational invisibility” that librarians often have when they just provide a service (Hartzell 2002). To be effective, the Teacher Librarian as a leader needs to adapt their style to the needs of the people that they are working with therefore displaying a “flexible repertoire” of leadership skills (Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee, 2002; Fullan, 2004; Winizenried, 2010) which can accommodate a variety of situations and position themselves as a valuable member of the team.

Authoritative and affiliative are just two of the six leadership styles discussed by Winzenried that teacher librarians might apply as part of their professional toolkit. How would these two leadership styles impact on a Teacher Librarian’s ability to drive change in their library?

Authoritative/Visionary Leader

The characteristics displayed by an authoritative or visionary leader are often described as the “classic mould of leadership” (Winzenried, 2010, p. 73) being both charismatic (self-confident) and transformational (change catalyst) in their day-to-day interactions. With the catch cry “come with me”, the authoritative or visionary leader can mobilise their team to support and work towards a clearly articulated vision.  This leader is known for empowering their employees to “innovate, experiment and take calculated risks” (Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee, 2002, p. 72) whilst remaining aware of how their team is feeling and reacting to change (empathy). But at the end of the day, whilst empathy is shown, the goal of the visionary leader is to move the organisation forward.

Goleman’s analysis of this type of leader highlights that while this technique can “clearly articulate where the group is going” (Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee, 2002, p. 72) it works best at a strategic level of the organisation, rather than a tactical or operational level where the teacher librarian might be located. Visionary leadership traits can very easily “generate dissonance when not used effectively” (Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee, 2002, p. 69) being too concerned with events and how they are perceived rather than what people are feeling people within their organisation (Senge, 1990, p. 335).

When working with the authoritative or visionary leader, it is important for the teacher librarian to ensure that they connect their actions and initiatives back to the leaders vision for the organisation. For example, organising an information literacy strategy plan can clearly connect and support the vision for the school by taking into consideration the key teaching and learning goals.

The authoritative or visionary leader also needs to feel that the teacher librarian is working cooperatively within a team and is supportive of the changes that are taking place within the organisation (Fullan, 2011, p. 22). It is important for the TL to fully understand the vision and asking relevant questions and asking for advice can show this.

Building an effective communicative relationship with the visionary leader is important when showing how initiatives in the library can clearly support the changes that the leader is hoping to achieve.  This might be done through regular meetings or forwarding of research papers that link the values of the school vision to latest educational thinking.

Giving the leader an opportunity to shine (building their charisma) through the achievements of the library is one example of getting a visionary leader on board with changes that may need to occur within in the library. Making the school and therefore the Principal look good through the promotion of the library activities in the local paper (be it technological advances or guest speakers talking at Library Week) might be one way of raising the library profile.

Affiliative leader

An affiliative leader is quite different to an authoritative leader. Whilst this style is still classed as a positive leader, their concern is that “people come first” as opposed to the “vision coming first”. This leader is a relationship builder, they openly share emotions, and spend their energy on building loyalty and team moral (consecutiveness) (Goleman, Boyatzis and McKee, 2002, p. 80).  They value “down time” within the organisation as it is an opportunity to build their relationships and they are expert at conflict management. The affiliative leader believes that productivity will grow if people feel that they are more valued (Winizenried, p. 71).

Whist the affiliative leader focuses on people and relationships, their weakness is the inability to recognise the importance of process or vision within their organisation. The affiliative leader will often place emphasis on celebrating birthdays rather than meeting key performance indicators. Many leaders that display these emotional traits also like to avoid confrontation sometimes failing in giving robust feedback on performance within the organisation for the fear of impacting on the relationship.

The TL would benefit from engaging some of the affiliative strategies when dealing with people that they would have no direct authority over. This might be building trust with members of a subject faculty or dealing with support people in Information Technology. If the TL answers to an affiliative leader then they need to respect the time needed to build the relationship before attempting to implement their visionary ideas. For example, this might be done through personal conversations over coffee about their family.


For a teacher librarian as a leader, the starting point is to acknowledge what you are good at and passionate about (Collins, 2000). TL’s should be proactive ‘can-do’ people who aim to make programs great and inspire others to join in. Strategically engaging a variety of Goleman’s (2002) leadership styles when dealing with supervisors or school Principals can achieve better results as the TL is more mindful of where the organisation is heading (Fullan, 2004).

The leadership position held by TL’s is based on their ability to leverage collegiate relationships, not a hierarchical structure. They drive change through their ability to communicate effectively and listen actively, and respect the limits of their circles of influence (Senge, 1990). Library leaders should always look for learning opportunities to expand and update their expertise. They always reflect and utilise self- assessment as well as put themselves in influential positions in a range of areas within the school


Fullan, M. (2004). Leading in a culture of change. Jossey-Bass Publishing.

Fullan, M. (2011). Change leader: Learning to do what matters most [Kindle version]. Jossey-Bass Publishing.Hartzell, Gary. (2000). The Principal's Perceptions of School Libraries and Teacher –Librarians. School Libraries Worldwide 8, no. I (January) 92-110.

Goleman, D., Boyatzis, R. E., & McKee, A. (2002). The new leaders: Transforming the art of leadership into the science of results. London: Little, Brown. [Personal copy]

Hartzell, G. (2003). The Power of Audience: Effective Communication with Your Principal. Library Media Connection, 22(2), 20.

Winzenried, A. (2010). Visionary leaders for Information. Wagga Wagga: Centre for information studies. [Personal Copy]

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