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The Leadership Puzzle

The first step of effective leadership is being observant and recognizing relationships. Relationships among people. Relationships among places. Relationships among things. Relationships among needs. Once the relationships are understood, a school librarian has the strength and skill to examine the connections between the different pieces and take action.

I am grateful to have GG and my daughter in my life. Grandma is 101 (truly—she was born in 1917) and everyone calls her GG, which is a nickname for great-grandma. My daughter is eighteen, an amazing person who takes her granddaughter role quite seriously and who is instrumental in helping us with GG's daily care. Obviously, both are extremely important relationships in my life.

One of our daily struggles with GG is trying different ways to keep her engaged mentally. We want to keep her mind sharp as sharp as possible, which was why we were in the family room after school putting together a jigsaw puzzle on the coffee table. Ok, truth be told, my daughter and I were working on the puzzle while GG supervised and made faces at us, but this still keeps her mind engaged. We opened the box, dumped the pieces, turned them all face up, pulled aside the edge pieces and built the border before beginning the arduous task of working on the inside. It was one of those perfect nights with laughter, love, and a shared task. Why do I tell you this? Because this is the night I also had a flash of insight about myself and how I process relationships into opportunities to lead.

Putting together the puzzle was about finding the relationships among the pieces. It was looking through the big pile of random pieces to find those whose designs seemed related. It was taking the smaller pile of those related pieces to find odd-shaped pieces, two at a time to match, or seeing one with a tab that fit perfectly into the interlocking slot of a corresponding piece. It was in the middle of working on this as a team, finding the perfect relationships among puzzle pieces, when I realized this is the way I attack most of the problems in my life in order to lead with a possible solution.

Learning how to lead large is a jigsaw puzzle of pieces to put together. In order to lead effectively, I first look for relationships among the pieces within my school. Which tab fits into which slot? What are the connections among people, places, things, or ideas which might be obvious, but no less important? Once the obvious relationships are strung together, it's time to dig deeper into the school librarian leadership skill set of experience, training, and competencies to find those not-so-obvious connections that are so clean and pure, they're a perfect match. That's what we do. We find the connecting pieces among information, resources, needs, and wants, seeing the obvious and not-so-obvious relations and developing what is needed, whether it be information, resources, or programming, and communicating it to the appropriate stakeholders.

What do I mean by all this? What does it look like when I lead by finding the connection between puzzle pieces and fitting the tab and slot together?

The Relationship Puzzle




1:1 student Chromebooks introduced

Classroom teacher integration training is minimal

Host quick, how-to and one-topic casual training opportunities – Breakfast Bytes and Lunch Bytes

Maintaining or improving student reading skills

Students lack reading opportunities at home

School-wide program to allow students to pick books for home as reward for behavior, reaching goals, prizes, etc.

Library aides in the elementary schools

Library skills and experience among new hires varies

Coordinate with associate superintendents for school librarians to develop district-wide library procedures manual and host training for library aides

Parents and caregivers asking for book recommendations

Administration seeking ways to build positive relationships with the community

School librarians work together as a team to develop and communicate to all schools and the community an annual Perry Township School Libraries Holiday Reading & Gift Ideas guide

So, while putting this jigsaw puzzle together as a family, I developed an awareness about myself and, in turn, use that insight to better inform the leadership opportunities I empower. I learned to understand how I lead as a school librarian while putting to together a puzzle with the important people in my life.

About the Editor

Leslie B. Preddy, MS, has been the school librarian at Perry Meridian Middle School in Indianapolis, IN, since 1992 and has served as an adjunct professor for Indiana University, Indiana State University, and IUPUI. She has presented webinars and is a frequent speaker and consultant at local, state, national, and international education conferences and events. She has published many articles in professional journals, co-created online resources for educators, and is the author of SSR with Intervention: A School Library Action Research Project, Social Readers: Promoting Reading in the 21st Century, and School Library Makerspaces. Preddy is a recipient of many awards including AASL's Collaborative School Library Media Award and Perry Township Schools Teacher of the Year. She is Past President of the American Association of School Librarians and the Association of Indiana School Library Educators (AISLE). Preddy is a recent recipient of two grants for her school library makerspace from the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, administered by the Indiana State Library.

Select Citation Style:
Preddy, Leslie B. "The Leadership Puzzle." School Library Connection, February 2019,
Preddy, Leslie B. "The Leadership Puzzle." School Library Connection, February 2019.
Preddy, L. B. (2019, February). The leadership puzzle. School Library Connection. Retrieved from

Entry ID: 2187780

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