Career Strategies for Librarians
by Brian Gray
Effective leaders constantly reexamine their own personality traits, skills, and weaknesses in order to
prepare a successful strategy for becoming a leader. Each situation or work environment may vary
greatly and rely on a different plan of attack. Several inventories exist that may help leaders categorize
their style. Learning about your inherent leadership style can help develop a strategy for improving your
skills. In addition, a better understanding of how others react to various situations will help you improve
your communication skills.
Management vs. Leadership
People do not immediately transform into leaders simply by gaining an administrative job title such as
“supervisor” or “manager.” Milan Moravec and Richard Manley developed a list of terms that differentiates
management and leadership traits. Their list of contrasting terms has been widely distributed and
One method of self-analysis begins by comparing your personal style to this list of contrasting terms. For
example, the list notes that managers “administer” while leaders “innovate.” If these two terms represent
opposite ends of a management-leadership continuum, where do you fall? Conduct a similar analysis
for each set of terms. Your personal skills inventory may fluctuate with changes in your career, education,
Effective leaders take the inventory of their style one step further by understanding the consequences of
their actions. Successful leaders will fluctuate between the “manager” style and “leadership” style in
order to ensure the overall success of the organization, project, or situation. As a result, successful
leaders probably fall in the middle of the scale in most categories.
Anyone with experience in strategic planning or marketing has probably conducted a SWOT analysis.
SWOT analysis provides a summary of the Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats of an
organization. An individual may conduct a similar analysis on himself. Begin by listing your leadership
skills that are strong and that provide a foundation for your leadership style. Second, list your leadership
weaknesses or deficiencies. Opportunities would consist of two categories: chances to improve weak
skills and chances to utilize skills you have been ignoring in leadership situations. Threats can include
others’ perceptions of your skills or your neglecting to maintain a skill set over time.
In order to be efficient and harness the abilities of participants, a leader must first know his strengths.
Leaders must constantly improve and look for educational opportunities that focus on personal
weaknesses that may inhibit their ability to lead. As a result of a personal SWOT analysis, a leader can
develop an educational plan, a personal vision for leadership, and a toolkit of skills.
Most people are familiar with the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator test and may even know their “type.” The
MTBI provides an additional mechanism for leaders to take an inventory of their personality traits. In
addition, the Myers-Briggs provides a framework for leaders to effectively interact with others. By
understanding the thought processes of other Myers-Briggs types, a leader can minimize stress during
change, can effectively promote a change, and can properly motivate others during a change.
The enneagram is another psychological test similar to the Myers-Briggs. The enneagram categorizes
people into one of nine types. People may be a combination of several types. The “helper,” the
“motivator,” or the “peacemaker” are examples of a few of the types. Books about the enneagram also
propose methods to communicate with other types, advise how people may progress from one type to
another, and describe strengths or weaknesses of each type.
I am usually very skeptical of tests that categorize people. I was therefore surprised by my personal
enneagram results, and I found the theories to be much more valuable to me than the Myers-Briggs. I
am currently reading Type Talk at Work to further my understandings of the relationships as categorized
by the enneagram.
You are probably asking yourself, “Do I need any of this self analysis when I already know my strengths
and effective skills?” The answer is a simple “YES!”
Leaders need to inventory their strengths and weaknesses. If you rely solely on your strengths, two
problems will develop. First, you will utilize your strengths in every situation; therefore, your areas of
weakness will become even weaker. Second, your strongest leadership skills (communication,
delegation, etc.) may not be appropriate to lead everyone. Not everyone reacts to a leader in the same
way. A good leader has a plethora of skills and styles available at his or her disposal in order to adapt to
all personality types.
Are you a manager or leader? http://www.buildingbrands.com/definitions/08_manager_or_leader.shtml
Free online MBTI test: Temperament Sorter II, Personality Instrument
An Example of Using the MBTI
Free Online Enneagram Test
Moravec, Milan and Richard Manley, “Reinventing Leadership,” PM Network, September1995, pp. 15-18.
Kroger, Otto, Janet M. Thuesen, and Hile Rutledge. Type Talk at Work, How the 16 Personality Types
Determine Your Success on the Job. New York: Dell Publishing, 2002.
About the Author:
Brian Gray has over 10 years of experience in the Science & Technology Library at the University of Akron,
as either a student worker or a paraprofessional. For the past 3 years, while continuing as a university
employee, Brian has helped to run a corporate library which focuses on business information, chemistry
and polymers. He will be receiving a MLIS from Kent State University in December of 2004. He is a
recent graduate of Library Leadership Ohio 2004, which is a week-long leadership retreat for 30
librarians held every other year. He is a current participant in the Leaders of the Pack Leadership
program conducted by the ALA Library Administration & Management Association, and holds committee
assignments in both Special Libraries Association and ALA.
Article published October 2004
Disclaimer: The ideas expressed in LIScareer articles are those of their respective authors and do not
necessarily represent the views of the LIScareer editors.