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Mark “Mr. Bloglines” Fletcher on Leadership

I sometimes think my management motto could be, “The early bird gets the worm, but the second mouse gets the cheese.” So I was very struck by Mark Fletcher’s observations about how his role in his company is evolving from entrepreneur to leader-manager.

I was hired for that kind of transition at MPOW. A Very Important Librarian commented at the time that some people were entrepreneurs and others were managers of a different stripe, and that what would help MPOW would be the leadership required to take it to the next step.

It takes an entrepreneur to have the vision and sheer force of will to make something happen that no one else sees. But the entrepreneur, by definition, is more closely integrated into the operations of the organization than the leader-manager. You can’t be an entrepreneur if you aren’t willing and able to do whatever it takes to make your project happen, from writing the code to plunging the toilets, and often the entrepreneur starts out playing every staff role, but you also can’t build a new library building if you’re standing at the circ desk with a barcode wand.

Two years ago, I had a “click of recognition” moment when our project’s fiscal agent suggested I speak to another librarian who had started another popular Web site to get her take on site management. This woman was forthright: “Don’t do what I did; I kept it small, I couldn’t let go, and that has killed my project.”

That woman helped confirm the direction I was going in. Since then, the proudest moment I have had at MPOW was the first Thursday morning during an especially busy week when I realized that our publication, New This Week, was for the most part new to me. I was proud of the remarkable skills of the team representing MPOW; I was proud that in my cryptic, hurried way I had somehow managed to convey key points about what we wanted (or more likely, I had hired people especially good at mind-reading); I was proud I had created policies and procedures and selection criteria, and that I had apparently sent the right “empowerment” message.

It is hard to let go, and sometimes it takes a different leader to play the role of leader-manager. I would like to have the guts and vision to be an entrepreneur, but as I guide our project through a particularly exciting period of change and development while our great librarian-editors do their thing week in and week out (and also provide their own marvelous input on the development processes), it feels pretty good to be the second mouse.

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