Many libraries promote teen services, especially Teen Advisory Council positions, as leadership opportunities—great for college applications! Participating teens provide input on program planning, teen spaces, collection development, and more. In some cases, they make decisions about programming and marketing, and are responsible for much of the implementation. These are great leadership experiences for teens. However, we rarely talk about the leadership skill the librarians need to successfully organize and facilitate this work with teens.
Mark Richardson, in his article Stepping Up: Applying Situational Leadership Concepts to Public Library Work With Teens, describes how librarians can use Situational Leadership to implement effective teen leadership opportunities. Situational Leadership includes four styles of leadership: directing, coaching, supporting, and delegating. Effective leaders utilize all four styles, and know when to use which style depending on the task or situation.
As you read the following description of each style, think about when you might use that style with teens and why. What you might do to implement each style? What do you hope teens gain from experiencing each style as you implement it?
- “Directing, is used whenever one trains a new person or teaches a new skill.”
- “Coaching… is still directive, but more time is given to explaining our goals and why we have them. Input is requested and integrated into plans when possible.”
- “Supporting… [is] trying to get the teens to make decisions on their own without as much help.”
- When “delegating, people are empowered to act independently with less input from the leader.”
Read Stepping Up: Applying Situational Leadership Concepts to Public Library Work With Teens for more information about Situational Leadership and examples of how Mark has and plans to apply Situational Leadership to teen services at Cedar Mill Community Library.