Library Superbosses Lead By Creating Careers | Leading from the Library

Steven BellIt makes sense. Great bosses create workplaces where staff want to be. Lousy bosses make staff miserable so they quit and go elsewhere and try to recover. What exactly does a superboss do?

Have you ever known a superboss? A superboss is more than just a good leader who runs the type of library where staff members want to work and community members want to be. A superboss creates a library legacy primarily through two actions: First, there is a unique ability to identify top talent, staff members who exhibit tremendous potential to do great things. Second, there is leader development at a high level that produces a next generation of library leaders who go out and do great things on their own. To be a superboss means putting the future career success of the library’s executive team or unit heads ahead of one’s own selfish desires to keep subordinates under control and in place. The superboss takes pride in knowing she has given staff opportunities for leadership development, and may be sorry to see good people go on to new jobs but does so knowing they deserve their chance to take the reins and deliver on their own library leadership vision.


Superboss is hardly the term I would have come up with for the type of leader described above. I might go with the familiar “remarkable leader,” but perhaps there needs to be a more distinctive way to describe a leader who is particularly skilled at developing staff, or whose track record demonstrates an ability to produce subordinates who go out and do great things on their own. A good case is made for the superboss in Sydney Finklestein’s article “Jon Stewart, Superboss.” Finkelstein became interested in the track records of leaders who could be linked to the rise of an industry’s top leaders. He did this by examining fields where the top 50 most prominent or influential individuals could be connected back to one or two leaders who had employed a disproportionate share of those 50. He came up with a group of superbosses across industries and found that “although their personalities varied, these bosses all demonstrated an unusual, even legendary ability to develop the best talent in their industries.” These superbosses are a diverse group, from Lorne Michaels and Oprah Winfrey in entertainment, to Ralph Lauren in fashion, and Bill Walsh in professional sports. One individual in particular has a truly impressive track record.


Employers Want Workplace-Ready Grads, But Can Higher Ed Deliver? | From the Bell Tower

By on March 19, 2014 1 Comment

steven bell newswire Employers Want Workplace Ready Grads, But Can Higher Ed Deliver? | From the Bell TowerA new survey reveals a wide gap between provosts and business leaders when it comes to judging college students’ readiness for the workplace. What can academic librarians take away from the controversy?

As the cost of college tuition has skyrocketed in the past decade, students and parents expectations for a graduate’s state of career readiness have grown. And as the job market continues to offer limited opportunity for college graduates, students look to build any and every personal advantage. These factors find their way into the curriculum in many ways, from writing intensive courses that address business correspondence to the development of specialized certificates that students can tack on to their diplomas to show they have workplace skills. While there is pressure on colleges and universities to do a better job of readying students for the workplace and job placement, there is a fine line between a college education and vocational preparation. If the results of a new survey of business leaders is an indicator, then higher education if failing quite spectacularly at preparing students for the workplace. Read more…

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Left Behind by the EdTech Surge | From The Bell Tower by Steven Bell

By on February 19, 2014 Leave a Comment

steven bell newswire Left Behind by the EdTech Surge | From The Bell TowerThere’s loads of activity happening in the world of educational technology. New startups. Dozens of websites for managing learning activities. Apps by the dozens. Academic librarians seem out of the loop.

A few months ago I subscribed to the weekly email newsletter from an organization called EdSurge. It’s subtitled “a weekly newsletter for innovators in education.” Depending on you how you feel about the phrase “innovators in education,” you may be thinking that’s exactly who you are—or maybe you’ve had your fill of innovation talk. While EdSurge does dedicate about half of each issue to the K-12 startup scene, there’s also reporting on the latest educational technology resources and utilities. Some of these are startup websites that may or may not be here for long. What it reveals is a veritable flood of new educational technologies. It leads me to question if academic librarian educators are managing to keep up with all these new resources. Are we taking time to investigate and explore these new tools or are we falling back on our old familiar standbys? Based on some time I spent listening to an instructional technology discussion at ALA Midwinter, I think it might be the latter rather than the former.

Some Old Wine

Admittedly, some of these new instructional technologies are simply variants, or even outright replications, of existing educational technologies. Coggle, for example, is hardly the first web-based mind-mapping tool, but it claims to add new collaborative sharing capabilities.  Some replication is expected, because it’s well known in the startup world that the trick is not always being first to the market but being the product in the marketplace that catches on with users (think MySpace and Facebook). However, that strategy is no surefire path to success. Right now a slew of imitators are trying to move into Snapchat’s space, but so far the original is still number one with the user community. Still, while discovering some truly original utilities takes a bit of work, checking out newcomers to an old space may lead to a great new find with better options or performance (think screencasting utilities).

Read more…

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