What it Takes to Become an Informal Leader: Opportunities, Challenges, and Benefits

Managers—or those in other official positions of power—are not the only ones who can, or should, lead; and management and leadership are not one and the same. Once we separate leadership from the trappings of official status, we open up a whole new realm of possibility—an area of work where librarians at any stage or in any role can garner valuable skills and experience, raise their professional profiles, and figure out what is next for them in their career. This is informal leadership. To lead informally can mean many things, it is often temporary or ad hoc, it usually means additional work, it almost never results in more money or prestige, and it typically arises from a desire to get something done, or to produce positive change.

This webcast will define and discuss the elusive nature of informal leadership by focusing on three main concepts: vision, courage, and ability (Baker, 1995) as building blocks for a solid and stable professional platform. Attendees, through guided activities, will be able to identify their own leadership traits, to assist them in seeking out appropriate informal leadership opportunities in a variety of contexts. They will strategize ways to successfully integrate informal leadership responsibilities into their existing roles and explore ways to garner the support of colleagues as they take the lead on new projects and initiatives. Finally, there will be discussion and guidance on ways to overcome challenges and tear down traditional barriers and constructs, and champion the benefits that informal leadership experiences can have on one’s career. (Baker, Shirley K. “Leading from Below: Or, Risking Getting Fired.” Library Administration & Management 9, no. 4 (1995): 238-240.)

Learning Outcomes

  • Participants will identify opportunities for taking on informal leadership in their own institutional or network contexts, in order to gain experience and skill and advance their career development.
  • Participants will strategize ways to control the scope of informal leadership responsibilities, in order to integrate this new area of work with their existing duties without becoming overwhelmed.
  • Participants will explore communication and relationship management strategies, in order to prepare for productive collaborative effort. &  Participants will strategize solutions to some of the challenges that typically arise in informal leadership situations, in order to prepare for successful implementation.

Target Audience

New or mid-career academic librarians, library school students


Linda Miles, Assistant Professor, Head of Reference, OER Librarian, Hostos Community College - City University of New York; Susanne Markgren, Assistant Director, Library Operations, Manhattan College


Pricing is listed to the right on this page. To register, use the register button to checkout. You can register a group by specifying the number of people who will be accessing the webcast during checkout. If you are an ACRL member, you can purchase seats for yourself and your colleagues at the ACRL discount rate.

Number of SeatsDiscount
10+If you are registering 10 or more individuals for a webcast, please email mconahan@ala.org for special discounted pricing. 

Tech Requirements

ACRL Webinars are held in Zoom. Speakers or a headset for listening to the presentation are required. You may interact with the presenter and ask questions through text-based chat. Closed captioning is available in the Zoom platform. The webinar will be recorded and the link to the recording shared with registrants shortly after the live event. 


If you have a question or need to make arrangements for special assistance or additional accessibility, please contact Margot Conahan (mconahan@ala.org).