MLDC Recent Webinar on Adaptive Leadership

On April 7, The Mentorship & Leadership Development and the Continue Education Committees hosted a virtual panel discussion on adaptive leadership. Panelists included Eugene Giudice (Dentons US LLP). Joanne Kiley (HBR Consulting) and Mandy Lee (Chicago-Kent College of Law Library). Heidi Kuehl (NIU College of Law) moderated the panel.

The adaptive leadership framework was first introduced by Ronald Heifitz in the 1990s and gained traction in the late 2000s when Heifetz and his collaborator Martin Linsky authored The Practice of Adaptive Leadership: Tools and Tactics for Changing Your Organization and the World. According to Heifitz and Linsky, “adaptive leadership is the practice of mobilizing people to tackle tough challenges and thrive.” The panelists discussed how they have applied adaptive leadership principles to ensure long-term success for their libraries.

Don’t let the decision come to you. Be part of the decision. This call for collaboration was a cornerstone of Joanne Kiley’s shrewd advice on how to inspire creative change on a budget. Joanne reminded attendees to be aware of the broad goals of one’s organization and to be sure that they align with the goals of one’s library. Joanne also advised leaders to communicate constantly with stakeholders, teams, and vendors and, when using data to support a cause, to be sure to pick data that your audience caress about. Joanne acknowledged the fundamental role law librarians played during the pandemic. When quarantines and telecommuting came on workers unexpectedly in 2020, libraries were ready to go from day one. Because of the foresight and adaptive mindset of the law librarians throughout the country, the wheels of justice continued to turn without pause during a very difficult time.

Addressing the shifting sands of collection development, Mandy Lee advised attendees on building and marketing print and online collections that are relevant to users. A patron-centered focus is paramount. Knowing the interests of library users can help a proactive librarian shape and promote the library collection. While Mandy lamented the decrease in opportunities for in-person interactions, she also noted that, in the process of relationship building losses can beget new opportunities. For instance, where pre-pandemic, librarians would actively promote study-aids in person, the online environment provided librarians with opportunities to embed recommended resources directly into course pages. The librarians meet the users where they are – whether it’s hanging out in the cafeteria or clicking through an online course.

Eugene Giudice shared his strategies for using adaptive leadership principles to increase morale during times of change. According to Eugene, the past two years have provided an opportunity to be creative. Because adaptive challenges often involve an experience of loss, it is important for leaders to acknowledge the loss at stake and provide context to help people move through the loss and build new solutions. The disappointment of the cancelation of a library user’s favorite print treatise is an opportunity to get treatise readers excited about all the ways online treatises can be searched effectively and efficiently. Similarly, while there was a very real loss of seeing our colleagues face to face, the confidentiality and convenience inherent in an online environment has made it easier for library users to reach out to librarians. Because of this, Eugene has noticed an increase in requests for individualized research consultations. The increase in telecommuting has also provided opportunities to offer services that have not traditionally been associated with the library – such as virtual notary services. These additional non-traditional services provide librarians ever-expanding opportunities to showcase their wide array of skills. They also often result in an increase in traditional library services.

Finally, the panelists reflected on leadership and change in teaching and reference.  From Google Meets, to chat boxes, to Teams there are now more ways than ever to interact with and assist library users. While there may be fewer opportunities to meet face to face there are more opportunities to meet anywhere.

This sense of optimism by the panelists reverberated throughout the one-hour discussion. Where there is change, there is opportunity. In understanding and addressing challenges with an adaptive mindset and a sense of purpose, these the panelist demonstrated how to effectively improve the lives of colleagues and associates during unprecedented times.