A Reflection: My Leadership Journey
An assignment submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the course
Dr. Michelle Harrison
ROYAL ROADS UNIVERSITY
Assignment Due Date: February 2017
To some, the subject of leadership may conjure up images of dictators, religious figures, teachers, or even parents. A leader’s intentions may be portrayed as positive or negative in the eyes of the individual. Mumford, Zaccaro, Harding, and Jacobs (2000) outline that “it is not enough for leaders to exercise influence, however important this influence may be to perceptions of leadership” (p. 12). No matter the situation, a leader must have unique qualities to help give them direction, momentum, and the skills to guide the masses. However, the question remains. What makes an effective leader?
Various theories revolve around the concept on what drives a person to lead. O’Toole (2008) outlines that there are more than “ten theories of leadership,” in addition to his theory of “Value-Based Leadership” (p. 4), that outline the characteristics that form the foundation of a leader. However, the fundamental underlying theme of any leadership theory relies upon the premise that a leader must be able to instill the desire in others to follow (O’Toole, 2008). Beilski (2005) also describe effective leaders as those who lead by example, demonstrate vision, project passion, and set goals for their team to “deliver their best for a higher purpose” (p. 22).
My Leadership Journey
Throughout my life, I have always had a desire to lead. My approach towards leadership has always focused on what Castelli (2015) outlines as the betterment and encouragement of the individuals, which results in followers that “view their work as relevant and purposeful to the organization, job satisfaction and motivation to perform increase” (p. 224). My reflection may sound somewhat meritorious. However, I can be quite firm, or paternalistic at times to help guide the focus of the group (O’Toole, 2008). I now understand my desire to lead came from the influence of my father. I have always known him to be a leader, a trailblazer, and a mentor. In every role, he would bring out the best in everyone under his guidance. Castelli (2008) explains that “the legacy of the leader’s influence is perpetuated through the followers’ incorporation of legacy principles into their lives as they become leaders” (p. 220). I have always had a desire to lead others, but at times was unable to explain it. Perhaps I was a pseudo-follower of my father.
I can reflect back to my early years in that my approach to leadership was to help inspire the group to become more productive and team-driven. According to O’Toole (2008), transformational and shared leadership theories would best describe my first experiences in moderating a team. At a young age, I had naturally become an “enabler of” my “followers” while at the same time trying to influence a “shared activity” (O’Toole, 2008, p. 4). This intrinsic motivation towards leadership would follow me throughout my adolescence and into my adulthood.
Over time, I have acquired experience through various leadership roles. Since the early days of working in media-related industries, I have overseen many projects through to final production. This desire of leadership has also followed me into my pedagogical career at Algonquin College. My primary vocation and passion is professor and mentor. Castelli (2016) connects the role of leadership to one “who serves as coach and mentor by providing positive reinforcement and displaying supportive behaviours helps build followers’ self-esteem and confidence” (p. 224). To that, I have also taken on the role of program coordinator of the Interactive Media Management (IMM) program at the college. As program coordinator, my motivation is fueled by the success the students, the faculty, and staff in the IMM program. I understand now that my desire of leadership and mentorship is not based upon rewards or status, but on the achievements of others (Goleman, 1998; Huggins, Klar, Hammonds, & Buskey 2017).
Over the years, I have come to rely upon various tools to aid me in my leadership roles. One of these tools, which outlines more of my internalized leadership traits, is that of emotional intelligence (EQ). Emotional intelligence is a model that describes an individual who has the abilities of “self-awareness, self-regulation, motivation, empathy, and social skills” (Goleman, 1998, p. 83). I came to realize the presence of my EQ abilities during my studies in Psychology. Various academic papers on leadership outline that leaders that are high on the EQ scale demonstrate successful results (Goleman, 1998; Castelli, 2015; Nowack, 2012).
Digital technologies have also become a staple tool that I use on a daily basis as coordinator of, and teacher in, the IMM program. My knowledge and experience with many digital technologies have allowed me to become an effective leader of the ever-evolving digital learning environments (DLE). We as leaders must have a foundational understanding of technological tools and advancements that help us to communicate, teach, learn, engage, and grow with others around us (Sheninger, 2014). However, it is not about the technology per se, but more about how the technology is used to improve the quality of achievement and engagement (Sheninger, 2014).
The combination of education and technology has brought forth a melding of different leadership theories. Leaders with a strong transactional, transformational, servant-leadership, value/based would fit best within pedagogical environments as education is about enabling and motivating others to achieve their goals and needs (O’Toole, 2008; Khan, 2014). However, as learning environments rely more on technology, a progressive leader would envelope adaptive leadership skills as they would be more apt to “recognize potential changes in the external environment and consider the best path that will positively affect the organization” (Khan, 2014, p.179).
Effective leaders should be able to engage and motivate those around them to reach their full potential. Leadership theories have evolved over time to keep pace with ever-changing environments. As education relies more on technology, pedagogical leaders and educators must adapt to the advancement of DLEs. Skilled leaders must also acclimatize themselves to various leadership theories to transform, not only followers, but the world around them.
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