In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Open Leadership for a Vibrant Future
  • Barbara I. Dewey (bio)

Embracing Open Leadership

Open access is a growing movement that promises to transform universities, libraries, and other academic institutions by making scholarly research freely available to the public, without restrictions. In the spirit of open access, it makes sense to also focus on open leadership. Transparent, inclusive, and accessible leaders exemplify the open leadership approach. Perhaps the opposite of the smoke-filled rooms, exclusive clubs, the glass ceiling firmly fastened, or a narrow fast lane, open leadership provides avenues for broad input and participation into decision making. Open leadership, like open access, provides a key to new discoveries and understandings in the process of knowledge creation. Open leadership reveals new and effective road maps for successful decision-making. People working in this mode have access to a deeper, broader, and more diverse base of expertise. Open leadership leverages brain power to address a multitude of challenges. Open leadership is sustainable, empathetic, and the right thing to do.

The Imperative for Collaborative Leadership

Today's world demands excellence in collaborative leadership because the knowledge environment today requires building at scale—that is, building at the right size to meet present and future demands. Effective collective action is needed to achieve true collaboration for the benefit of our stakeholders. Lorcan Dempsey, in his groundbreaking article on library collaboration, declared, "I was motivated by the observation that while collaborative structures and services are well described in the literature and at conferences, the important political and organizational aspects of library collaboration are less closely observed."1 Open leadership is an essential component of effective teamwork because it requires that a sharp focus be kept on the contributions and ideas of many instead of those from only one vocal participant. Open leadership mitigates against the domination of strong, ego-driven individuals who are focused more on their own role rather than on reaching the group's goals. [End Page 359]

Collaborations are critical with campus and higher education partners as well as with library partners to advance the collective library and collections programs and agendas that support student and faculty success. Well-informed and sensitive open leadership is essential to quickly recognize, leverage, and fully embrace various campus partners needed to make a new venue, service, or program possible. These circumstances require that participants from a variety of backgrounds, ranks, and responsibilities make things happen as opposed to only deans, directors, or other administrators. I noted in a recent book chapter that "individuals, working together collectively, can use their influence to work in a positive direction using the broad notion of distributed leadership."2 Open leadership goes farther in emphasizing the place of participants who may not appear to be leaders but who may have the most compelling and useful expertise for the intended goal.

Leadership Development

Leadership development is a crucial component for success in today's libraries, and indeed, for good outcomes in all higher education. Demographics, especially related to large waves of baby boomer retirement from the workplace, point to an even more important need to foster sustainable leadership for current and future success. The time is now to counter the paternalistic refrain (sometimes heard in leadership development programs) that there is no new leadership and, oh dear, what is going to happen as new generations of librarians advance or, as some fear, retreat from leadership? The time is now to move leadership development forward where current leaders recognize the imperative to practice open leadership by lifting others while rising themselves. Or, to put it another way, to step back and provide leadership opportunities for others in as many venues and on as many projects as possible.

Demographic Trends and the State of Leadership Today

Stanley Wilder, in a series of articles on "Workforce Trends in Research Libraries" in Research Library Issues, explored changes shaping the research library profession. He correctly summarized the long-standing prediction of mass retirements due to demographics as the baby boomer population ages.3 This author recalls dismal predictions of a leadership void during the Association for Research Libraries (ARL) 75th anniversary celebration in 2007. The wave of departures was delayed due to the Great Recession that...