13 Rules of Leadership — Colin Powell

I started listening to It worked for me in life and leadership by Colin Powell.  I have always been a big admirer of his and this audio book has shown me why.  His 13 rules of leadership apply not just in the military and government but also make sense in libraries.  Here are the rules with how I think they apply in libraries and everyday life.

1. It ain’t as bad as you think. It will look better in the morning.

Give all problems time to provide you with some perspective.  That report that was impossible to do yesterday will be easier to generate today.  Get a good night’s sleep. The library system going down just before you close the library may look bad now but it might be back up in the morning.

2. Get mad, then get over it.

It is not a bad thing to get mad but don’t lose your temper.  Don’t hold grudges. State your reason why you are mad and move on.

3.  Avoid having your ego so close to your position that when your position fails, your ego goes with it.

If you feel strongly about something, that is okay. If you are told “NO”, don’t take it as a personal attack.  If the  automation vendor that is selected is not the one you want, move on and get over it!

4. It can be done!

This does not mean everything can be done or accomplished.   This is about a positive attitude.  If you are asked to do something, be positive about it and find ways to do it.  If it can’t be done after looking at all possible ways of doing it, if it is legal and ethical, then document that.

5. Be careful what you choose. You may get it.

This simply means that be sure you actually need what you are asking for.  What will be the repercussions if you get what you want?  Do you have the resources to do it or support it?  Be honest with yourself on how many projects you can balance at one time.

6. Don’t let adverse facts stand in the way of a good decision.

Keep your eyes open for facts that will give you reason not to do something but don’t let them keep you from doing what feels like a good decision in your gut.  Just because it didn’t work in the big academic library near you does not mean it will not work in your special library.

7. You can’t make someone else’s choices. You shouldn’t let someone else make yours.

Be decisive.  Make up your own mind.  Ask questions and ask “WHY?” when you don’t understand a reason for a decision.

8. Check small things.

Remember that phrase in you job description that says “attention to detail.”  It is the small things that can bring a project to a grinding halt.  Take time to get all of your ducks in a row.  “Measure twice, cut once.”

9. Share credit.

Nobody in a library, even the one person library, works alone.  Give everybody credit where it is due.  At another job where I worked as a cataloger and systems librarian, my boss loved to take credit when projects went well, when they failed or were late, he always distanced himself from them.  Don’t be that kind of a librarian.

10. Remain calm. Be kind.

Don’t lose your head in a crisis. If others are going off the wall, be understanding and sympathetic.  If you have an angry patron, look at it from their point of view.  Show your understanding no matter what you do.

11. Have a vision. Be demanding.

Have an idea for what you want to accomplish. Tell your staff what it is you are after.  Set high standards without being cruel.  High expectations will produce better results than low expectations.

12. Don’t take the counsel of your fears or naysayers.

This is a personal favorite for me.  When I decided I was going to go to grad school to get my library degree, a fellow worker told me  I would not succeed.  I decided then and there to prove him wrong.  I succeeded although he probably doesn’t know that.  That is not important.

13. Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.

This might not sound like it applies outside of the military but it does.  If you are given a project that must be done, an optimistic outlook will get you a lot further than being Eeyore.


What do you think?


Who Reads Hardcopy Books?

Forty-six percent of American adults say they read only hard copy books, according to a Harris survey. A slightly larger 48 percent read books in hard copy and in electronic formats, and 6 percent read only e-books. By generation, this is the percentage who…

Read books in hard copy only
Millennials: 34%
Gen Xers: 46%
Boomers: 52%
Matures: 57%
Source: American Consumer Newsletter, May 2014