Open Conference Systems at Dalhousie, International Association of University Libraries, 2016 Conference

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Leading from the Side: The Role of Middle and Project Managers in Leadership Development
Kerry Creelman

Last modified: 2016-03-09


As senior leaders retire from academic libraries across North America, the profession is experiencing significant change and new opportunities for growth. Preparing the next generation of library leaders is crucial to the success and sustainability of our organizations. This paper will consider the role of middle managers and project managers in the leadership development of their peers.

Leading from the side or from middle management, with varying levels of authority, presents a variety of unique challenges and opportunities. Middle managers have frequent, direct contact with librarians and, through performance management, have opportunities to facilitate the professional and leadership development of their colleagues. Project managers have opportunities to work with colleagues at varying stages in their careers and across departments, broadening their network of influence. These leaders can build and sustain a culture where team members and direct reports are empowered to experiment with new initiatives and are encouraged to learn from successes and failures.

This paper will discuss how leaders in the middle of the organizational structure can help develop the leadership skills of their peers and direct reports through mentorship, peer-training, delegation, formal development programs, informal cohorts, and other strategies, sharing lessons learned from managing project teams and librarians.