DIY Creative Leadership

A few days ago, a friend of mine asked for my thoughts on going back to school to get an MBA.  (I’m staring at a bottle of lotion on my desk so, for the sake of convenience, let’s call my friend “Johnson”.)  Johnson had always thought about getting an MBA and now, after earning an MLS , working in the field for a bit, and seeing possibilities for making a difference at the administrative level, Johnson is again considering going back to school to earn a MBA.  Hoping to one day direct a library, but not wanting to be ignorant of business models of administration and management, Johnson asked: Do you have any suggested sources I should check for more information?

I love questions like these.  Someone wants my opinion and I have a chance to speak freely, one-on-one.  In reviewing my reply to Johnson, two things become evident right away.  First, I put less emphasis on degree-based education and suggested Johnson look at other kinds of training: non-profit management certification programs, and leadership training institutes, for examples.  Second, I suggested Johnson begin to craft a personal vision of the profession, of the Association, and of the ideal local institution.  “Start crafting that vision, break it down into smaller projects, find a way to develop those projects now as pilots on smaller scales, and continue to hone your leadership skills in the meantime,” I said.

I even advised against reading the library literature.  Right now, I spend a lot of my time reading two nursing journals pretty regularly: The Journal of Nursing Administration (JONA) and The Journal for Nurses in Staff Development (JNSD).  I added their TOC thingy to my feed reader so, once a month, I can browse the TOC and see what’s new, of interest, and potentially relevant.  It’s very simple.  Recently, I found a short article in JONA called “Unusual Topics, Essential Lessons” by Maryann F. Fralic.  It’s a short summary of six books useful for ongoing professional development that “meet the standard of being essential developmental resources” for leaders.  Here are the titles and summaries of her summaries:

  • Goldsmith, M.  What Got You Here Won’t Get You There: How Successful People Become Even More Successful.  New York, NY: Hyperion; 2007.  Describes bad habits (like feeling the need to add a comment to every discussion) not as deficits, but as challenges of leadership behavior.
  • Gladwell, M. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking.  New York, NY: Little,  Brown & Co.; 2005.  Gladwell’s lesson here is that “decisions made quickly can be as effective as those made with much introspection and deliberation”.
  • Patterson, K.  Crucial Confrontations: Tools for Resolving Broken Promises, Violated Expectations, and Bad Behavior.  New York, NY: McGraw-Hill; 2005.  Designed to assess your own crucial confrontation skills and includes guidelines, self-assessments, and case studies.
  • Kolditz, T.  In Extremis Leadership: Leading as if Your Life Depended on It.  San Francisco, CA: Wiley & Sons Inc; 2007.  The author describes how extreme life-and-death leadership skills provide lessons applicable to public, private, and social environments.  Sounds….extreme.
  • Luntz, F.  Words That Work: It’s Not What You Say, It’s What People Hear.  New York, NY: Hyperion; 2007.  Key message: words matter.
  • Allen, D.  Getting Things Done: The Art of Stress-Free Productivity.  New York, NY: Penguin Putnam Inc; 2001.  Have more energy.  Be more relaxed.  Get more accomplished.  Sounds lofty, but according to Fralic, the book delivers.

Okay, not bad, not bad.  None of these books, however, were on the list I sent Johnson.  I sent a few items off the top of my head, but if I had taken my time and had it to do over again, my list would look something like this:

  • Kaner, S.  The Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making.  San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass; 2007.
  • Godin, S. Tribes: We Need You to Lead Us. New York, NY: Penguin; 2008.
  • Kawasaki, G. Reality Check. Portfolio, 2008.
  • Florida, R. Rise of the Creative Class.  Basic Books, 2002.
  • Schon, D. The Reflective Practitioner: How Professionals Think in Action.  Basic Books, 1983.
  • Carr, D.  The Promise of Cultural Institutions. AltaMira, 2003.
  • Anderson, G.  Reinventing the Museum. AltaMira, 2004.  (Anything with John Cotton Dana is worth a read)

What would be on your Do-It-Yourself Leadership reading list?  Anything you’d like to share?  I’m sure there’s lots of good stuff out there…

-Megan P.

5 thoughts on “DIY Creative Leadership

  1. Cyn says:

    Let me just put this out there–I LOVED getting my MBA. Loved it. Really. But, it was expensive and I really didn’t need it to realize the career advancement I was after.

    If your friend is on the fence about an MBA, I encourage her (and anyone who is interested) to check out this reading list:

    We read a lot of these books in my MBA curriculum, but like you said, there’s no substitute for OJT.

    BTW, I’d be happy to talk to anyone out there who is considering an MBA. : )

  2. libraryresidents says:

    What a great comment. I’ve never heard of the personalmba. Looks like it’s got some good stuff. Thanks for sharing, Cindy. I’ll let “Johnson” know.

  3. hdc says:

    I’ve considered an MBA for a couple of reasons: 1) to deepen my subject expertise as an ’emergent business librarian’ and 2)to become better at managing myself for myself sake, and then also in relation to others. But I think the greatest value derived from professional degrees is largely the enculturation and networking processes (and by the latter I mean more like meaningful relationship building and less like speed-dating). (I think if it weren’t for that, a fairly good reading list would suffice for ‘gaining knowledge’ sake.) Library school or MBA, you are basically taught the language, values and norms of a profession – and if you are lucky, you meet a handful of people who are thoughtful, engaging and creative about what they do, and with whom you try to keep in touch beyond the degree. If I was smart, that’s the reason I’d go back to get a (second) professional degree.

    BTW, I recently finished reading the Rise of the Creative Class – I enjoyed it and do recommend it also. I think his best idea was about how the nature of work has changed from an expectation that you ‘do your job and do it well’ to ‘make your job better’. It also made me think a lot about the possibilities for Raleigh to become a ‘creative city’ and how much I’d taken for granted growing up in Toronto. FYI, Richard Florida now lives and works there.

  4. Tasha Gamble says:

    Do you have a presence on facebook? I can’t seem to find Residency Interest Group » Blog Archive » DIY Creative Leadership on there and I would like to connect with you there. I like your writing style, thanks Tasha Gamble

    • Megan says:

      Hi Tasha. We don’t have facebook page for Creative Leadership in particular, but we do have a group for The Residency Interest Group. Check out the right-hand sidebar. There is a link there.

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