Leadership Capacity

A better understanding of leadership capacity can help librarians to develop oneself and seek career growth; it is instrumental for libraries for talent management, succession planning, recruitment, promotion, performance assessment, and staff development.

What personal qualities make effective library leaders? Many books and articles address this question. Some of them focus on personal attributes, some emphasize on knowledge and skills, and some on behaviours. To understand what leadership capacity is, we should consider all three approaches together, rather than a single-dimensional listing of qualities.

Key Message

  • leadership capacity is the set of qualities that an effective library leader possesses
  • a composite model can help us understand what make up leadership capacity
  • the model and the elements provide a framework to help librarians describe leadership qualities

Librarians can

  • use the model and the elements to assess and describe your capacity
  • identify areas that you want to focus on for future development

Libraries can

  • use the model to assess librarians’ capacity collectively
  • use the elements to explore what are the priority areas for development in your library

A Composite Model of Leadership Capacity

With a composite view, behaviours and actions of effective leaders are enabled by complex combinations of personal attributes and competencies. In this model, competencies are knowledge and skills that leaders can acquire. Personal attributes relate to individual qualities such as attitudes, values, personalities; these are often not acquired in the same way as competencies, yet it does not mean they cannot be changed or developed. As figure illustrates the model: attributes and competencies interact with each other to enable leaders carrying out their actions.

composite model of leadership capacity

Elements in the Model for Librarians

In my research, I identified the important leadership roles, competencies and attributes among academic librarians in Hong Kong. They have potential to apply to contexts in other regions and library types.

In this model, the capacity elements include:

  • 4 symbolic leadership roles
  • 16 competencies
  • 9 personal attributes

These elements are like building blocks. When they are put together in the constructive way, they can form a robust profile for each librarian. However, it does not mean that a librarian has to have all the elements in order to be an effective leader. Each person has their own natural strength, weak spots, and working styles. No one can be good at everything, and no one need to. The key is to prioritize, and to choose a focus when one thinks of what to improve and how to improve.

See this document with the list of elements:

Updated January 2021