Places of Realized Potential

January 31, 2011 at 10:42 pm

Over the years I’ve read a number of books on leadership and/or management. One of my favorites is Max DePree’s Leading without Power. It’s not the best-written book out there, but several of the lessons have stuck with me year after year. Considering how many leadership books are utterly forgettable, that’s an accomplishment! This book is geared towards non-profit organizations, but many of the lessons have wider application.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot lately in the context of libraries, and what I’d like to see in the future. DePree nails it in his first chapter, when he talks about organizations as “places of realized potential.” Here are the characteristics he identifies:

  1. A place of realized potential opens itself to change, to contrary opinion, to the mystery of potential, to involvement, to unsettling ideas.
  2. Places of realized potential offer people the opportunity to learn and grow.
  3. A place of realized potential offers the gift of challenging work.
  4. A place of realized potential sheds its obsolete baggage.
  5. A place of realized potential encourages people to decide what needs to be measured and then helps them do the work.
  6. A place of realized potential heals people with trust and with caring and with forgetfulness.
  7. People in places of realized potential know that organizations are social environments.
  8. Last, a place of realized potential celebrates.

I love this concept, and I think it applies really well to libraries, both in our internal dynamics and in the way we serve our customers. Whatever our service models look like (and they are bound to change over time), I think we realize our potential as organizations by helping our customers to realize their potential. We’re in the possibility business!

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