Demonstrate oral and written communication skills necessary for professional work including collaboration and presentations.
To me, leadership and communication skills support each other, and are essential qualities in the workplace, regardless of position level. The definition of leadership can be difficult to isolate because it can often be conflated with management, but while the two are complementary, they are not always mutually exclusive. In fact, someone can lead from any position in an organization, not just within a formal leadership position (Sawyer, 2015). “Leadership is a process whereby an individual motivates a group of people or an entire organization to achieve shared goals” (Romaniuk & Sheldon, 2018, p.86). Within that definition, one can hone in on the terms process and motivates with the knowledge that leadership is a social process rather than an individual one (Romaniuk & Sheldon, 2018).
It’s often easier to identify the characteristics of bad leaders rather than those of effective leaders, but a quality leader can foster a positive working environment by influencing “commitment, engagement, happiness, and productivity” (Sawyer, 2015, p.382). In his book, On Becoming a Leader, Warren Bennis identifies four essential competencies that a leader must possess. These are: creating a shared meaning, having a distinctive voice, emotional intelligence, and integrity (Sawyer, 2015). The first of the four competencies, being able to create and communicate a shared meaning, is particularly relevant to information professionals as the prevalence of sweeping change in the nature of information organizations takes a firm hold. Beyond just being goal-oriented though, leaders must be adaptable with their goals so that they can guide their organization through transformational events. “Library leaders [possess] the attributes – including vision, intensity, outstanding communication skills, consistency, predictability, trustworthiness, and self-confidence – that were common to business leaders” (Romaniuk & Sheldon, 2018, p.89).
Communication skills are a key element of leadership, whether passionately inspiring a team to adopt a common vision or goal, or keeping everyone aware of the moving pieces within the team as they work to achieve a goal. “A good leader finds ways to communicate that reach everyone and that reflect the leader’s passionate commitment to the vision” (Romaniuk & Sheldon, 2018, p.93). Communication research supports that a leader’s influence is impacted by that person’s ability to disseminate information (Allahverdyan & Galstyan, 2016). Communication skills impact the perceptions of a person’s credibility and their level of influence (Allahverdyan & Galstyan, 2016).
Early in my time in the MLIS program I took on the role of Programming Director of the Silicon Valley SLA Chapter. This was my first experience in a leadership role and it inspired me to get more involved in different groups and events to build that skill. Following that, I joined the Executive Committee, first as Vice Chair, and this year, Chair. In addition, I have sought out speaking roles at different conferences and have attempted to bring those skills into my daily work. Through exercising trust, integrity, communicating a vision, and inspiring others I have begun to develop the skills necessary to grow my career and be an active leader in my profession.
I selected my position as Chair in the SJSU Student Chapter of ASIS&T in support of this competency because in this role I have used many of the traits necessary of a leader and during a time of great transition for the organization. This year saw an overwhelming turnover in positions with all of the experienced members leaving or graduating, and many of the positions going unfilled. Despite these challenges, through communication and vision, the group has performed admirably and delivered quality programming for our members.
I selected a presentation I made on the planning and launch of the platform I manage at work as evidence of this competency. During this project, it became clear to me that the intended scope of the project was not feasible in the timeline that was expected. In order to identify what was a priority for the launch, I created this presentation to communicate the steps that were involved in preparing for the launch and the timelines that were involved in each. The stakeholders in attendance understood the messaging and the vision, and agreed to reduce the scope of the project so that we could deliver on the target date.
I submit this blog post in support of this competency because in it I explore the different communication preferences of introverts and extroverts, and how information professionals need to be sensitive to these communication needs and behaviors.
Great communication skills don’t make a leader, but every leader must have great communication skills. A leader must possess the abilities of creating and communicating a vision, possessing a distinctive voice, having emotional intelligence, and having integrity. These skills promote a sense of engagement and productivity in the workplace, and through the opportunities available to me at work, in the MLIS program, and in my professional associations, I have had opportunities to develop those skills. As I move forward as an information professional, I will continue to exercise and develop my leadership and communication skills.
Allahverdyan, A. E., & Galstyan, A. (2016). Emergence of Leadership in Communication. PLOS ONE, 11(8), e0159301. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.pone.0159301
Romaniuk, M.-J., & Sheldon, B. E. (2018). A Conversation on Leadership: Taking Another Look. In K. Haycock & M.-J. Romaniuk (Eds.), The portable MLIS: insights from the experts (Second edition). Libraries Unlimited, an imprint of ABC-CLIO, LLC.
Sawyer, C. H. (2015). Leadership for Today and Tomorrow. In S. Hirsh (Ed.), Information Services today: An introduction. Rowman & Littlefield.