The CILIP Leadership Programme cohort. c/o Luke Stevens-Burt
The inaugural CILIP Leadership Programme kicked off in Liverpool with a face-to-face training day. Jo Alcock, the Programme Co-ordinator, introduced us to the programme and told us a bit more about what we’d be doing, support throughout the day by Luke Stevens-Burt, of CILIP Member Services. Also there was the CILIP’s new CEO Nick Poole, CILIP President Jan Parry and CILIP Director of Professional Services Simon Edwards. It was great to see such senior CILIP representation there. The day had been organised to coincide with a CILIP Council meeting specifically so that we could meet Council Trustees. The clear message coming through – from their presence and what they said about the programme – was that this programme is important to CILIP and that its staff are happy to see it happening. For example Simon said that he had wanted to develop such a programme for a long time, having benefitted from a similar scheme himself, because it would help to develop the leaders of the future within our profession. As I said, the programme is in its first year, so Jo begged our forgiveness if anything doesn’t go to plan along the way (I doubt it will, with her in charge) and told us that we should give our feedback throughout so that it can be refined and improved.
When we went around the room and introduced ourselves, we all said who we were and where we worked, as well as why we wanted to come on the programme. There were lots of common themes that came up and I was pleased that my own motivations – learning how to lead whilst in non leadership roles and in distinguishing management from leadership – were shared by many in the room.
What makes an effective leader?
The first part of the day consisted of some theory, we discussed around our tables what makes an effective leader. When our groups fed back to the whole group there were a lot of the same answers coming from different people, such as communication, integrity, consistency, clarity of vision and approachability. There were also some interesting things that I’d not thought of, but when they came up I immediately thought of leaders I know and admire, such as developing others and providing them with opportunities, especially in terms of succession planning – ensuring that there are good leaders within the organisation and the profession to follow on from them. When we looked at a list of what attributes could be said to make a good leader, none of us said that leaders were only those at the top or have it in their titles, leadership is a quality that transcends job titles and roles. Personally I felt that leadership is a combination of genetics and learning. I have met leaders who have inherent leadership qualities, who you might describe as “born leaders”. I have also met people who have learned how to be good leaders. Both are equally effective and not necessarily mutually exclusive – a “born leader” can still learn and improve, and learning may bring out someone’s natural leadership qualities.
We also learned about different styles of leadership, situations in which those would be appropriate and examples of that leadership style. For example autocratic leadership is good in a crisis situation, when decisive action is needed and perhaps there isn’t time for consultation, etc. However, it can alienate staff if used long-term. This style also makes the organisation reliant on the leader, which can be dangerous for the organisation as you don’t build in succession planning Steve Jobs and Alex Ferguson were both given as examples of this style of leadership and both exemplified the issue of succession planning. Authentic leadership was the final style we discussed and is linked with emotional intelligence – Goffee & Jones – the tagline of which is “be yourself, more, and with skills”. It involves knowing where you stand, building trust and being true to your values. It takes strength of character as your values may be at odds with your values at times. Talking about abstract leadership styles in the context of real-world situations and examples helped me to see the benefits and drawbacks of each style. The main point I took from this discussion is that they are not mutually exclusive, it is not about choosing your single style of leadership. A good leader uses different styles of leadership for different situations as appropriate, creating a hybrid style. For example there may be times when you can be a democratic leader who consults staff, gathers their opinions and uses those to inform a decision. Whereas in another situation it may be that a tough decision has to be made and consultation cannot change that, therefore you may have to be an autocratic leader who takes the decision and explains it clearly to staff. This relates to the qualities of leaders we discussed earlier – good communication, clear vision and integrity (in this case not consulting staff if ultimately the consultation won’t change the outcome). Another point that came up was that sometimes leaders have to adapt their leadership style outside of their comfort zone for the benefit of those they are leading.
Sharing leadership stories and leadership experiences
Nick said he never set out to be a leader and didn’t realise it was a journey until he was on it. When in a junior position he talked to lots of people to find out more about what they did, what made them passionate about what they do and learn about the range of opportunities. He not only sought CPD opportunities in his jobs but in committees as well, for example financial management, which he learned a lot about through working on committees. Although lots of elements go into leadership, his apt phrase was: leadership without figures is a pathway to failure.
Nick also talked about the need for positivity to create a can-do culture, there are lots of challenges in workplaces currently due to the broader context. But you have to believe in a better future, then make others believe in that vision, create opportunities and remove obstacles to make it happen. Nick echoed that communication was a key skill in leadership – as we had earlier in the morning. He said that your staff feeling ownership of strategy is important because achievement of the mission is dependent on your staff feeling involved with it.
Nick also said that your personal integrity is part of your professional integrity and central to your successful leadership. An example he gave was in creating an inclusive culture. For example if you involve yourself (however tacitly) in behaviour such as inappropriate jokes in the workplace, it can damage people within your organisation and ultimately undermine you. On a more personal note, Nick said that it is important to look after your mental well-being by not having your life revolve around work. This is important for you as an individual but also an instance of leading by example because you need to encourage your staff to have this balance to avoid burnout etc.
What Nick said about leadership by example – being the person that you would like to inspire you – really resonated with me. When starting fellowship, part of my motivation was to encourage more people to do it. Hoping that they’d see me doing it and think that they could too. When asking friends of mine (@Jaffne and @Preater) to look over my blog post on Professional Confidence this was something I struggled with. It felt self-important to say it, but then my friend pointed out that it was leading by example and that I should have the (irony alert) confidence to say so.
Jan has learned a lot by observing people and not just in the workplace. She shared her personal experience of having a stammer as a child. At times this had really knocked her confidence and prevented her from wanting to speak up. Jan learned to manage her stutter through acting lessons, which made me think that we should be open to different ideas and approaches to developing ourselves – especially seeking expertise outside of the profession. Another example Jan gave was from working on the Hillsborough inquiry, where felt listening skills were going to be very important and did a short course in counselling.
Jan got involved in local politics and was very inspired by working with her then MP, Baroness Shirley Williams. She observed the way that Shirley and others prepared for big speeches, difficult meetings etc, in order to pick up skills and techniques. For example one person she worked with struggled with nerves and would shake, so he would bring his a travelling lectern with him because it gave him something to hold onto and made his shaking less noticeable. If I have printed copies of my slides when giving a presentation, I keep them on the desk or lectern for this same reason. Jan encouraged us to have a think about how we present ourselves, for example if you’re going into a difficult meeting – how will you sit, etc. I often prepare for client meetings by running through scenarios and conversations in my head, particularly if I think there may be points of contention. I hadn’t thought about body language as much, so I will consider that in future. I know some basic techniques from recruitment training I’ve had (e.g. not sitting across the table but around the table, keeping open body language) but I think I may look into this more.
What came through was that Jan was always keen to seek out opportunities and thinking about skills gaps. She also urged us to observe good and bad elements of leadership.
Simon stated that he was a reluctant speaker to some extent because of his own feelings of imposter syndrome. His first job in a public library, which developed his passion for libraries. Wherever he is on his journey he keeps that in mind and advised that we all do the same and remember where we come from. Early in his career, he had a very set plan. Then opportunities came up that superficially deviated from that plan, but actually led to him achieving his goals much sooner than he’d expected. The moral of the tale being: be open to opportunities!
Simon raised that it is important to recognise and acknowledge what we do. In that many of us will be using leadership skills and working in situations where leadership is required, eg change management, but may not realise it. Simon also encouraged us to get involved with networks, committees etc as these are a great way to build up your experience beyond your day-to-day job – a suggestion also made by Nick and Jan.
Simon shared the tip of mapping out your journey – what has your career been so far? What have you done so far? This can help you to recognise your achievements to date, take stock of where you are and start to think about where you want to be – and what you need to do to get there. A few years ago my manager made me write a give year plan. I was sceptical, thinking it was management theory gone mad, but I found it a useful exercise. It wasn’t a rigid plan, but it gave me a sense of direction and meant that I could plan my CPD in a co-ordinated way. Crucially it also meant that I was thinking more than one year hence, which few workplace appraisals ask you to do
Simon also urged us not to be afraid to take risks and gambles – they can be hugely challenging but equally hugely rewarding. Library and information professionals can adapt to different situations and job roles because we have such a broad skill set. In addressing imposter syndrome Simon says that you have to remember that you’ve been chosen for a reason, so you should believe in yourself. Equally, imposter syndrome can be used positively because it makes you check yourself and think about what you’re doing, because you don’t arrogantly assume you are right! Simon gave us a way to manage your imposter syndrome which was to identify as your role, rather than as an individual, when going into challenging or difficult situations. So take on that role – similarly to Jan’s experience of acting classes. I liked this idea and will try it out, I think distancing yourself from the situation can help you to think of solutions by depersonalising the situation. As with the other speakers, Simon recommended seeing what you do or don’t like about others’ leadership style and think about why and how you’d like to implement those qualities. He also suggested seeking others’ feedback, such as in 360 degree appraisals, and in different situations – for example by asking the people we’re doing our projects with to give us feedback. I usually seek feedback about my performance when a project concludes – from the client, immediate colleagues, colleagues from other departments and any external experts we have worked with. However, I hadn’t thought of doing so with my colleagues on the leadership programme – but I definitely will!
Our lunch break coincided with that of the CILIP Council so we had an opportunity to chat with them. Gary Birkenhead was on our table, he told us lots about the role of CILIP Trustees and what skills we could gain by volunteering. It was nice that Gary and the other Trustees were all genuinely pleased to meet us and – like Nick, Jan and Simon – were excited about the programme. I enjoyed meeting Gary in particular as he used to be Chair of HLG, I’ve heard him speak at many conferences and follow him on Twitter so it was nice to meet in person. It was a great idea to use the lunch break for networking beyond our group.
Professional Knowledge and Skills Base group discussion
In the afternoon we went through our PKSBs in small groups. We talked through what we the areas we wanted to focus on and how we could achieve it, then the group offered additional suggestions for CPD activities. This was a great way to get to know people a bit more, understand their aspirations for the programme and to get loads of ideas for CPD. I was encouraged to hear that out of my group of 5 people, three of us were currently doing Professional Registration of various levels.
Group projects discussion
The penultimate section of the day was breaking into our group project groups to discuss the aims of the project, its outputs and how we would achieve the aims. My group’s project is for the Cataloguing and Indexing Group (CIG) who want to understand the demographics of their membership and benchmark them against the wider CILIP membership. This will help the group to understand their members’ needs better and ensure their membership offer can be taken up by all members who want to. Ultimately they want CIG to be leaders within the profession, so they need to discover barriers and find ways to overcome them. Then we will develop a toolkit for member networks and special interest groups to base their equality and diversity policies on.
A representative from CIG had travelled to Liverpool specifically for the meeting to discuss the project in person. We also connected via Skype with a member of the CILIP Diversity and Equality Group. Interestingly he said that in an ideal world that group shouldn’t have to exist because members of each committee should have responsibility for ensuring diversity and equality is embedded in their committee. It shouldn’t be a fringe, special interest, but something that we have a collective responsibility to address!
The final section of the day covered an overview of the programme, which was useful as it covered the planned content of the face-to-face training and the group project timelines.
Considering that I left the house at 04.30 and spent the day (9.30 to 17.00) in the training day it is a testament to the content of the training day and the stimulating company that at the end of it I was feeling excited and energised. Although I will confess that I was very tired by the time I got home at the end of that 18 hour day…