Capacity Profile: Aggregation of a Small Sample

The Leadership Capacity Profile Questionnaire is a self-assessment tool for librarians to tune the focus on their leadership capacity and development priorities. The summary of data from librarians who filled out the questionnaire can show us an aggregated picture, and also give individual librarians a frame of reference to look at their own’s profiles.

Here I summarize the questionnaire data collected so far, to illustrate what an aggregated capacity profile may look like.

The Profile with a High Self-rating

In this sample, the average self-rating of all capacity elements is 3.9, which is above the “average-mark” of 3.  Perhaps it was because the majority of the respondents were directors or heads of units in libraries. The capacity elements are plotted in the following matrix: the horizontal scale is the importance, and the vertical one is the self-rating. The chart is divided into 4 sectors by two lines, marking the average importance rating (4.2) and the average self-rating (3.9)

The 4 leadership roles are labelled in green for easy spotting. Respondents added 2 interesting leadership roles that are not in the capacity model in the questionnaire:

  • Resource explorer
  • Strategist and advocator

What draw my attention in this matrix are the three points that I marked red:

  • “Communication Skills” stands out as the most important element; yet, the self-rating is slightly below the sample average. This is quite consistent with what I observed in my work so far.
  • “Self Confidence/Self Efficacy” is rated rather high in importance, but the self-rating is among the lowest.
  • Similarly, “Leader Identity” is above the average importance mark, and it is the lowest in self-rating. Perhaps these two elements deserve more attention by librarians and library managers.

Note though, those “low” ratings are relative. All overall scores are above 3. For reference, the scales in the questionnaire are:

  • Importance Scale: Extremely important (5) | Very important (4) | Moderately important (3) | Slightly important (2) | Not at all important (1)
  • Self-Rating Scale: Very strong (5) | Strong (4) | Average (3) | Weak (2) | Very weak (1)

The Most “Wanted” and “Needed” Capacity Elements

The capacity elements that most respondents wanted to develop are Change Management and Strategic Planning; while the most-needed ones are Communication Skills, Emotional Resilience and Leader Identity.

The Sample

This initial sample consists of librarians from Asia, USA and Australia. Most of them work in academic libraries.

A Summary

The charts aim to illustrate how the capacity profile questionnaire data can be aggregated to show an overall picture of librarians’ perception on leadership capacity and development priorities. The current sample is very small to make any projection meaningful.

After all, the primary purpose of the questionnaire is for librarians to make self-assessment as individuals or as groups. The aggregate picture can provide a overall reference frame for individuals to make sense out of one’s own profile.

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Capacity Profile Questionnaire is rolled out!

The first component of this project is to build leadership capacity profiles using a questionnaire. After quite some work, I released the questionnaire today!

The questionnaire serves 2 purposes:

  1. librarians who fill out the questionnaire will get a copy of your responses; it can be a good starting point to think about your development plans
  2. the responses will be summarized to form a collective Capacity Profile; this aggregated profile can become a reference frame for individual librarians to assess your own profiles against the collective responses.

Look at my page, I hope you will find it is worth your time to fill out the questionnaire!

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Want to be a better library leader? What qualities do you need?

As a librarian, I am very sure that you can easily find many many books that try to answer this question. Yet, without reading any books, I am also quite certain that you can name a few qualities of good leaders; how about:

  • communication skills?
  • integrity?
  • vision?
  • self-awareness?
  • system thinking?

Leadership capacity is fluid and complex; there is no single definitive way to describe it comprehensively. You can find different scholars and authors giving you different lists of leader qualities, like many shopping lists that look alike yet also different.

Within librarianship, one such list is the Core Leadership Competencies. It contains 17 competencies in 4 groups. In my work, I started with this competency model, and built my version of leadership capacity, adding some items of personal qualities and leader roles.

I would invite all librarians to take a look at my leadership capacity model in this way:

  • the conceptual structure describes leadership capacity using 3 types of qualities: competencies, personal attributes and ability to act out roles. In other words, it is not a one-dimensional shopping list.
  • the elements I identified in the model resulted from the study with Hong Kong academic librarians. One can expect that, if I repeated the study with librarians in another region/context, the elements may be different; but the conceptual structure should still hold.
  • These elements are like building blocks that construct your capacity profile. Each of you may focus on specific elements that you can reflect on. No one can be good at everything. This model does not suggest that you need to develop ALL of these qualities. The key is to prioritize, to choose a focus to assess yourself and to invest on growth.
  • The model is not meant to be a definitive description of leadership capacity, but rather a practical tool for purposes such as personal growth, career planning, staff development, and strategic planning. You can use it as a set of vocabulary to describe leader qualities; and the descriptors (the elements) and their scope are flexible for revision and customization.

To turn the model into a tool, I am building a questionnaire that librarians can easily fill out to create their own Leadership Capacity Profile. It is going to start small, but I hope it will turn out to be something useful for librarians in different parts of the world.

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How to get librarians’ attention on leadership development?

Having completed a research project on leadership development, I certainly believe that this is a very important issue for librarians as well as for libraries. Yet, I find it difficult to promote this idea to my peers.

The word “leadership” seems to be an uninteresting term for librarians. We often equate leadership with management, especially senior management. For most librarians, it just sounds so boring, remote, and irrelevant to our daily work. And, “leadership development”? It’s even worse! What does that mean? It sounds like a management jargon that could mean many things or nothing. The term easily slips over the surface of your mind without leaving any traces.

Librarians, if you can give me 5 minutes of your attention, I want you to know:

  1. Leadership ≠ “boss-ship”. As information professionals, in various contexts we find goals for our groups, then work with others to achieve those goals —- that is leadership. In this broader sense, all librarians are leaders.
  2. Everyone can learn to lead more effectively. For library leaders, your specialized professional knowledge is a big MUST. However, it is only a necessary condition, but not a sufficient condition. You need a lot more. Leadership capacity is a complex combinations and interactions of many knowledge, skills, attitudes and mindsets.
  3. Leadership development is about time, opportunities, and combinations. Leadership capacity are developed through many learning opportunities, big and small, throughout your work-life. It is not only about attending a leadership program or sitting through management training, but more importantly, you develop from various sorts of work experiences. Another key component that boosts your growth is learning and support from other people in your work-life.
  4. Leadership development is personal. Leadership skills are also life-skills. That is one of the reasons why leadership development is different from staff development, that many of us library workers are familiar with. To develop leadership capacity also makes us a better person, a more effective individual in managing our personal lives.

I believe leadership development is important for all librarians. It has different emphases for senior managers, middle managers, and front-line librarians. Knowing how leadership is developed is naturally more relevant for early-career librarians; because the awareness can help them better prepare their career growth. However, even for librarians later in their career, learning to lead is still a good investment of time and effort, because leadership quality has values beyond one’s work life (see my point #4 above).

I would like to see librarians not being put-off by the term “leadership development”. I would like to see more libraries use “leadership development” in their planning and operation documents. If you have any thoughts on how we can achieve that, do share with me!


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Continuing the work on librarian leadership development

After finishing my EdD project, I want to build this project website to continue my exploration on librarian leadership and leadership development. I believe it has practical and meaningful value for us who are working in the field, and for libraries as organizations.

A major function of this site at this stage is to host the Leadership Capacity Profile Project. If you are a librarian, I hope you can spend a few minutes to get to know the capacity model I constructed, and will take part in the Profile Project by filling out the questionnaire!

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