Hungry for inspired leadership? Betcha didn’t look in the library stacks for a leadership rock star did you!


Photo credit:

Ta-da—Meet Carla D. Hayden! In the Washington Post  feature article by Peggy McGlone, “Nation’s top librarian can read people, too” (September 14, 2016),  McGlone quotes Maureen O’Neill, a librarian at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, as saying about Hayden—“She’s like a rock star.”

Hayden has just taken the reins as the 14th Head of the Library of Congress —the largest library in the world. The most remarkable news is not that she is the first woman, the first African American, and the first Head of the Library of Congress to hold a doctorate in Library Science. It’s how she leads and manages to get amazing things done that shows us what’s important in a leader.

I’m not the only fan either. Hayden is on Fortune’s 2016 annual list of the World’s Greatest Leaders.

For 23 years Hayden was the CEO of the Enoch Pratt Free Library in Baltimore. Before that she was Chief Librarian of the Chicago Public Library. Gus, a retired librarian from Chicago said about Hayden in McGlone’s piece, “I always saw her trying to find some way to improve the library. I didn’t see her manipulating to get higher. She does what she does and her works speaks for itself.” Take a moment to read those last few sentences again.  

This is exactly what researcher and best -selling author Jim Collins, Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap… and Others Don’t discovered at the end of his 5 year study. He found that “all good-to-great companies had level 5 leadership at the time of transition.” For Collins, “Level 5 Leadership was a paradoxical mix of personal humility and professional will. They are ambitious first and foremost for the company, not themselves.”

Sounds like Carla D.  Hayden would qualify as one of Collins’ rock stars too!

She is said by her many followers to have put the Pratt Library on the map for its application of technology and unique collections.  In addition, her courage is noted as she kept the 22 Baltimore libraries open during the riots after the funeral of Freddie Gray, Jr., the young African American who was arrested and later died in police custody on April 19, 2015.

Possibly insignificant, or perhaps inspired, according to McGlone’s profile, Hayden’s wide-ranging fans from Baltimore “teased her about picking up the tiniest piece of trash off the floor and weeding the flower gardens at the library’s [Pratt] entrance.”

Stop for a moment and picture CEOs across America stooping to pick up a piece of trash on their way to a board meeting. What a message this could deliver — “I care about this place and everyone who is part of our corporate family. And I’m not so high and mighty that I can’t bend and do my part.”

Of course, no one expects Hillary or Donald, to weed the White House gardens, but what a lesson for either candidate to absorb about true leadership. To be successful, you must be a servant leader first.

carla weeding






2 thoughts on “Hungry for inspired leadership? Betcha didn’t look in the library stacks for a leadership rock star did you!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s