Thursday, October 25, 2007

MLA Thursday afternoon

After the keynote, I went to Becoming a Servant-Leader in the Library Setting, presented by Paul Elliott Dahl, the library director of the Minnesota Department of Health library. I don't know anything about this, so I'm here completely to learn. JoAnn Toussaint, from the University of St. Thomas, just sat down next to me.

The main point, I'm gathering, is to think of leadership as a service role. One of the questions Dahl presents is to ask yourself, "who do you serve?" Dahl comments that many leaders expect others to serve them; according to Dahl, in the servant-leader model, leaders should think of who they serve.

Attributes of a servant-leader that Dahl mentions include:
  1. Listening
    Ask questions to build understanding
  2. Empathy
    Judge performance, not personality; Show concern for the whole life of the employee
  3. Healing
    Toxic situations/institutions do contaminate; Model your own healing; Take care of yourself
  4. Awareness
    "The unexamined life is not worth living"; make your words consistent with your actions; be emotionally observant
  5. Persuasion
    Don't rely on coercion or force; convince and seek consensus; share success
  6. Conceptualization
    Long-range thinking; do a little dreaming; "see things whole" - E. B. White
  7. Foresight
    Take advantage of intuition; link the past, present, and future
  8. Stewardship
    More than simply profit-making; take into account the needs of others.
  9. Commitment to the growth of others
    All employees have an intrinsic value beyond their work contribution; support their growth to build the team; support the decisions of others
  10. Building communities
    Use your gifts to better social institutions; we are diminished when we limit our liability to the group; generate an exportable surplus of love

Dahl drew from analogies from Abraham Lincoln's presidency, including how Lincoln named many of his opponents in the presidential race to his cabinet. A reading of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address was an example of foresight.

Dahl compared circle models of leadership to the pyramid style, and the idea of the ripple effect of modeling servant-leader behavior. In the question/answer period, Dahl revealed he had been a pastor previously, which leads one to believe that he comes to this concept somewhat naturally. A participant suggested that humility is a part of all of this, and he agreed; another participant reflected that it also required confidence - confidence in yourself as well as confidence in your colleagues. It highlighted a connection to me that successful work environments I've been in have been more collegial, where the staff trust each other. Like at MCTC.