The Relationships of Leadership: The Benefits of Transformational Leadership in Academic Libraries
Academic libraries need transformational leaders who help their libraries and the profession to succeed and grow. Transformational leaders use idealized influence, individualized consideration, intellectual stimulation, and inspirational motivation – the “Four Is” – to build relationships, model values, and share a vision. Followers of transformational leaders are challenged to think, lead, and achieve in ways well-beyond what they ever thought possible. Transformational leadership has a positive effect on organizations, but it also affects those in the organization on a personal level. Transformational leaders motivate, care about, inspire, and empower others in the organization. They treat each person in the organization as the unique individual they are. This personal approach may be the most important thing transformational leaders do as it is the foundation of everything they accomplish in an organization. Transformational leadership is highly correlated with effective organizations and successful change, yet few studies of transformational leadership exist in the library literature.
The purpose of this IRB approved study was to investigate the beneficial relationship between transformational leaders and followers. The study used a qualitative approach because that is best at describing complex happenings and allows participants to tell their own stories. Three academic librarians were interviewed about their experiences working with a transformational leader. All names used are pseudonyms. This study adds to the library literature by allowing the three participants – Steve, Chelsea, and Gabrielle – to share their stories of working with transformational leaders who helped them in both their professional and personal lives. The three transformational leaders discussed all used the Four Is to varying degrees. The three participants benefited most from their leader’s mentoring, ability to share and achieve a vision, and generous spirit. The overarching theme is the personal relationships these transformational leaders were able to build. Building a relationship can be difficult, but they are mutually beneficial. The stories presented here show the effort to be very worthwhile.
Interview one was with Steve library dean at a medium-sized Midwestern university. The transformational leader he talked about was Frank and what a great mentor he was. Frank cared about the “whole person,” and his motto was, “If you succeed, then I succeed.” Interview two was with Chelsea a library department head at a large West Coast research university. She spoke about her current supervisor Beverly who is transformational because she uses an inclusive decision making style, synthesizing many voices to reach a decision almost all can agree, builds relationships with people, mentors others, models excellent behavior and values, and most importantly to Chelsea has a strong vision. Interview three was with Gabrielle library dean at a large Southern state university. The transformational leader she spoke about was Nick, a long time librarian and state wide library leader. Nick is transformational because he is knowledgeable about the profession, communicates well, cares about people, and freely gives of himself to help others. By attending this session, attendees will learn about the importance of personal relationships in leadership and how those relationships can manifest themselves.
The full article is available from the Journal of Academic Librarianship.
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