- ALA Annual Conference 2022

Middle Management and Leadership

Are you a supervisor or manager, but not the head of your department? I attended this #alaac2022 session “Supervisors in Transition: Navigating Moments of Change” because, while I’m not a new manager anymore, I always need new information, advice, and experience from others to navigate my role and mentor my direct reports.

Here are a few takeaways from this session:

  1. Amidst change, one thing that can’t change is your willingness to grow and change. I’ve been wrong so many times, and every time it’s a learning experience to grow as a leader.
  2. Trust and communication through transition can’t change.
  3. The first 90 days sets your leadership platform, with quick and easy wins to set you up as a supervisor. But hey- I’m past those 90 days! What’s great is that it’s never too late to start over with a new blueprint. We’ve all changed the way we perform our role since March 2020, so that’s a great opportunity to restart practices.
  4. 1:1 meetings are the most important part of your job. I have them once per month, and sometimes bi-weekly. What I had never heard before was the importance of a template for these meetings. Instead of “Hey, what do you have for me?” make an agenda that is consistent for every meeting. You don’t have to follow it to a T, of course, but a schedule provides safety for both the manager and direct report. For example, the first portion of the meeting could be the manager giving feedback– projects first, then programs, etc. The next portion could be opportunities for the direct report to ask questions and give feedback. Then end with a success story or a compliment from manager to direct report. I love this and am going to incorporate it right away.
  5. Wait 5 seconds after someone finishes their thought. I tend to be thinking about what I’m going to say while the person is speaking. Am I really listening?
  6. A presenter recommended the book Managing on the Edge by Richard Tanner Pascale. In it are the 7 S’s of structure: strategy, structure, systems, shared values, style, staff and skills.

What has helped you in your leadership? Remember: you don’t have to be a manager to be a leader.


Conference guest contributor Katie Clausen (she/her) is the Early Literacy Services Manager at Gail Borden Public Library in Elgin, IL. Her specialties include discovery-based play, picture book analysis, and storytime best practices. During ALA, she will be munching on Vanilla Cupcake Goldfish, and is thrilled to attend The Newbery-Caldecott-Legacy Banquet. If she could read any book again for the first time, it would be The Rabbit Listened by Cori Doerrfeld.

Please note that as a guest post, the views expressed here do not represent the official position of ALA or ALSC.

One comment

  1. Maria Estrella

    The post was great! Thank you so much for sharing your analysis and words of wisdom. It’s so true, you don’t have to be a manager to be a leader!

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