Level Up Your Leadership Skills: Build Your Network

This is a guest post from Kelly Stade, Area Manager at the Hennepin County Library.

All leaders need support. Intentionally building your network can support you when you feel stuck, spark creativity and connect you with new opportunities.

As a private person, it can sometimes be difficult for me to ask for help. Networking within your library system, school or professional organization can feel challenging. I admire my colleagues who seem comfortable reaching out to a broad network of supporters. As I have pushed myself to build connections, it has been beneficial both for myself and the library where I work.

“What would you do?” moments. We have all run into situations where we feel stumped or puzzled. We also have moments where we feel confident, but would value a second opinion. Both are excellent opportunities to reach out to trusted peers. By the nature of being a leader, you try new things, push yourself, explore, and you extend beyond your comfort zone. When venturing into this new territory, it is only natural to have moments of uncertainty. Asking questions and asking for help demonstrates your confidence as a leader. The answers you get back will help you learn new skills and expand your perspective.

Even if you feel confident in your approach, reaching out for second opinions provides an opportunity to learn a diversity of styles. I love hearing how a single challenge can be approached from a number of different angles. The diversity of opinions challenges me to reframe and refine myself as a leader.

When putting myself in a vulnerable position of asking for help or for a second opinion, I can open the door to become a trusted support for others, repaying the favor.

“What are you up to?” moments. Creativity sparks creativity. The librarianship profession is one that rewards begging, borrowing and stealing. Need to develop a new summer program initiative or Teen Read Week promotion? Don’t reinvent the wheel. Reach out to your network to learn what other libraries are doing. The community or network you reach out to may live in-person or online.

Another benefit to building a network is that your network may lead you to new opportunities, like the opportunity to write on the YALSA blog.

Where can you start building your network? Look within your organization or neighboring libraries. Reach out to leaders in your organization who are doing work you admire. Do you know someone who seems to be well connected? Ask those well connected individuals to introduce you to a broader circle. You can also look within YALSA, ALA or your local library community. Join a committee, attend a conference or participate in professional opportunities. Intentionally build your network through professional leadership programs such as the PLA Leadership Academy or ALA Emerging Leader Program. I am fortunate to be a graduate of the 2014 ALA’s Emerging Leader program. Through the program, I was able to make strong connections to librarians across the country. It is exciting to learn from and share with librarians outside of my home state. As a leader, challenge yourself to ask for help and reach out the leaders around you. Making professional connections will not only benefit you, it will make our profession stronger.

Start small. The next time you feel stuck or in need for inspiration, intentionally connect with one new person. You will soon find that your efforts feel more natural and your network richly diverse.

Kelly Stade is an Area Manager for Hennepin County Library, with a background in Youth Services. She is passionate about leadership development and supporting others in active leadership. Connect with Kelly via LinkedIn.

About Maureen Hartman

I am the Division Manager for Strategic Services at the Hennepin County Library in Minnesota and a former Board member for YALSA.
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