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KDL Blog

A blueprint for highly successful servant leaders

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Post #8 in a series by Lance Werner, Director of KDL, on creating better libraries and stronger communities through kindness, empathy and love.

There's an adage that no one is perfect, but a team can be. My success as a servant leader comes from the success that I'm able to foster in those around me. It's not about me. It never has been and never will be. The same is true for libraries in service to their communities, education institutions and whoever else they serve. We exist to help others. The most effective leadership doesn't come from drawing attention to one's self or telling others what to do. It comes from enabling and empowering others.

Libraries today are a valuable and critical connecting point for people that strengthening communities. The relationship aspect of library service is so important that we’ve developed a service model called The KDL Way that’s beautiful in its simplicity because it’s simply based on kindness, empathy and love. People are the niche for every service-based organization, and relationships can’t be automated. Think of a place you have gone to get great food but the service was bad. You don’t feel welcome there, and you probably won’t go back. By creating solid relationships through a heartfelt commitment to serve and no expectation in return, we’ve found an incredible sense of satisfaction that is also felt by library patrons. The goal is to take great customer service up a notch by creating a genuine style that focuses on individual needs. The KDL Way is selfless. Good leadership is selfless, and our professionals is selfless. That’s what it’s all about.

Library staff and volunteers are the prow of the ship, making social connections that drive and strengthen a greater social good…it’s not just librarians. Anybody the public sees in a library is a librarian to them. Is it right?

Here are a few interesting stats on consumer behavior that point to the significance of service:

  • Experiences that would make consumers take their business elsewhere include unfriendly service (60%) and employees’ lack of knowledge (46%) (PwC)
  • 48% of consumers have left a brand’s website and chose an alternative source due to a poorly personalized experience (Accenture)
  • 80% of consumers say they are more likely to choose an organization if it offers personalized experiences (Edelman)
  • Consumers who believe personalized experiences are very appealing are 10x more likely to be a brand’s most valuable customer – those expected to make more than 15 transactions in one year (Epsilon)
  • 75% of loyal customers will recommend a brand to friends and family (InMoment)
  • 74% of consumers said they are more loyal to a business that provides them with the option to speak to a human, than those that only support customer service through digital or self-service channels (Calabrio)

Being a servant leader is critical. It’s our niche, as libraries – we transform lives by connecting people with things that they’re interested in, by touching their hearts, figuring out what makes them tick and lifting them up.

KDL Way service priorities are a framework for creation of procedures and decision making. They also help staff make sound judgement calls when working with people, which is extremely empowering for staff and rewarding for patrons. These service priorities are:

  • Convenience
  • Efficiency
  • Consistency
  • Protection of materials

Even as we go forth with kindness, empathy and love, we must not forget that there are procedures in place to make sure we are being consistent with other patrons and not infringing on their rights.

These service goals are a set of simple objectives to help guide staff in providing relationship-focused service. The service goals are directions, because we’re librarians and we like directions. At KDL, they are a key part of orientation for new staff and ongoing training. They’re very simple, straightforward directions for people to know what’s expected.

At the end of the day, your brand, success and future is determined by what patrons think, feel and do with regards to their experience. For this reason, service and the role of being a servant leader is essential.