MBM is proud to announce the publication of Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership, our first title in the Peak Series. More importantly, we’re honored that Steven Bell signed on as editor for this first title; Steven has assembled an amazing collection of library leaders to write about their formative experiences.
Crucible Moments: Behind the Inspiration
By Steven Bell
Think about some particularly memorable events in your career. Focus on the ones you recall as being true tests of your professional abilities. Was it that time you were put on the spot in a meeting and all eyes were on you? It may have been the decision that looked like a sure disaster but somehow you made it work. Perhaps it was a personnel situation that really did lead to a failure. When we reflect on these events in retrospect we know their impact is profound. They shape who we are and how we think of ourselves as leaders, although we might be unable to define exactly how so. One thing we feel certain about is that these occurrences, cumulatively, have somehow tested us and forged who we are as leaders.
These moments can leave us mystified, unclear on their purpose in our professional lives. Some of my own involved difficult personnel situations or failures to meet expectations. Others emerged from being put into a new and unfamiliar situation, one in which there is no real way to prepare, for example, needing to make a quick decision involving an ambiguous set of factors. In these moments leaders must place faith in their accumulated skill and experience. What I wanted was to make sense of these moments. I sought to enhance my ability to choose the right path. It would help to have a philosophy for thinking through them and learning how others managed to cope with and leverage their most difficult career challenges.
Inspired by an article, and the book upon which it was based, I began to understand that all leaders face these situations. The good leaders know how to use them to become even better leaders. Crucible moments. That’s what they were called. Anyone of these crucible moments can contribute to our success or failure as leaders, testing our leadership qualities. Whether our response to the test is good or bad, right or wrong, what’s more crucial is how we emerge from it, what we learn and how we use the experience to shape ourselves as leaders.
While there is little we can do to prepare ourselves for crucible moments, we can work to develop the leadership qualities that will guide our actions so that hopefully we are ready when faced with a crucible moment. One way to develop the right qualities is to study and learn from the stories of leaders who have experienced crucible moments, survived them and gone on to lead their organizations and colleagues to great achievements. That’s what led to the inspiration for Crucible Moments: Inspiring Library Leadership, a new book for which I have the honor of serving as editor.
My first foray into leadership writing was my Library Journal column, Leading From the Library. I had written a few leadership oriented posts at other blogs, but this was an effort to commit to share with librarians what I was learning about leadership. As I said in that first column, I’m no leadership guru. I enjoyed learning about leadership and wanted to share that with colleagues. After two years of monthly columns I thought, why not a book about leadership? As with my other projects, my goal would be to bring a different perspective to a familiar topic. But write about what? Librarianship was hardly in need of another book on the mechanics of leadership. Leadership advice? That’s for gurus and the Internet is full of them. Though I wasn’t entirely sure what I had in mind I knew it had to be something different for librarianship.
One of the ways I enjoy learning about leadership is from the stories of success and failures told by leaders, primarily from business but from other sectors as well. That inspired me to develop a book that would compile stories from library leaders as a way of offering inspiration to developing and aspiring leaders. That’s what makes Crucible Moments a different leadership book. It neither claims to teach the reader how to be a leader nor what leaders do. It is a book about why librarians become leaders, and it offers the lessons of leadership through the stories of leaders at different phases of their careers. Throughout the book contributors share their own crucible moments and how they used those experiences as learning opportunities on their path to leadership positions of increasing responsibility.
Two things in particular made editing this book a better than expected experience. Book projects can sometimes feel as though they are dragging on endlessly. Not this one. First, working with a fantastic group of contributors made this a dynamic project where I looked forward to reading each contributor’s story, and then working with that author to fine tune their chapter for a desired fit to the book’s qualities. I am proud to bring together this great group of leaders and their leadership stories. Second, working with Rolf Janke and the team from Mission Bell Media was by far my best experience compiling a book. I am extremely honored to have my name on the MBM’s first book project. I believe the pride that MBM takes in their books is reflected in the quality of their product and attention to details. I am also extremely proud that the book is reasonably priced so that it is affordable to any librarian. Additionally, the contributor agreements are author friendly, which makes working with MBM a pleasure and another reason to be proud of an association with this press.
I recently received an advance copy of the completed version of Crucible Moments. From the inspiring front cover artwork to a thoughtful back cover observation and comment from Sarah Pritchard, I am truly pleased with how it all turned out. Readers will be both inspired by the stories of these librarian leaders and they will hopefully be influenced to seek their own leadership path. Other leadership books can give librarians information about skills for leading library organizations. Crucible Moments gives librarians a reason, a purpose for choosing to lead. It does so by sharing the moments that forged librarians as leaders.