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Leadership Development Program

Johnson County Library

Problem Statement

Facing a shortage of qualified candidates for mid-level and senior management positions and impending Baby Boomer retirements, library administrators determined to grow their own leaders and create a recruitment pool with an internal, staff-driven leadership development program. Focuses: leadership was needed at every level of the organization, and managers and senior leaders interested in advancement needed to build skills in creating, leading, and managing system-wide projects.


A Leadership Development Steering Committee conceived of a two-tiered, two-year program to address the two levels of need, utilizing consultants only for the design of the Tier 2 curriculum for senior managers. Tier 1 in 2007 was open to all staff, including pages and clerks, and focused on developing behaviors rather than technical skills. The 27 participants spent 240 hours each in a year-long curriculum of four components – classroom learning, independent study, project teamwork based on real library needs from the strategic plan, and mentoring by Steering Committee members. This large investment meant that the remaining library staff had to cover participants’ work and hours – and they did for the entire year.

Tier 2 for senior managers in 2008 focused on four key leadership competencies: 1) Leads Change, 2) Influences People, 3) Achieves Results, and 4) Fosters Communication. The 13 participants attended three consultant-led workshops, but the remaining classroom work was taught by Steering Committee members, in addition to outside reading and assignments. In 2009, the second cycle Tier 1 was taught by Steering Committee members and Tier 2 graduates, achieving self-sufficiency for the program going forward. Due to budget constraints, Tier 1 will resume in 2011.


With 11 retirements in 2007in addition to normal turnover, seven Tier 1 participants were promoted or transferred, including three to management positions. The biennial staff engagement survey at the end of 2007 reflected improved scores of more than 7% in two areas – satisfaction and loyalty, and growth and development. Most program participants felt they had increased their leadership skills.

As importantly, the hoped-for transformative organizational change resulted, and a culture of exploration and efficiency was born. Project teamwork produced major initiatives, including centralized training and the streamlining project that examined every process and procedure, ranging from Technical Services through Interlibrary Loans, handling of materials donated to Friends, courier activities, and Public Services handling of holds, returned materials, and patron notification of fines and holds. Implementing these major changes in 2009 resulted in ongoing annual savings of $141,600 and 6.0 FTE and significantly improved service to library patrons.