Assignment 1 of the course LRNT525 – Leading Change in Digital Learning challenged each of us in the class to reflect on our personal leadership perspectives and outline in a blog post what we think are the most important attributes of a leader when working in digital learning environments.
As mentioned in earlier blog posts, I am fairly new to the field of education and training since my background has mainly been in the business world. However, leadership is an aspect that encompassed much of my career whether I realized it or not.
My personal approach to leadership:
Oxford English Dictionaries (n.d.) describes leadership as the action of leading a group of people or an organization and this could relate to professional and non-professional environments. Over the course of my career, I have had the opportunity to lead teams in both of those environments and while the personalities of the people within those teams varied, my approach to leading them was always predicated on creating an open communication and supportive structure. Unknowingly, I naturally leaned towards a value-based leadership style (O’Toole, 2008) where I found personal satisfaction by providing the opportunity for others to realize their goals and potential.
From what I have learned to date in the LRNT525 course, of the ten major leadership theories that O’Toole (2008) described, I feel that I tend to default to a combination of Transformational, Shared, and Servant-Leadership philosophies since my personality and work ethic style encompasses building people up to achieve their goals and working in tandem with them instead of a “rule by might” structure that some Paternalistic or Power theory leaders subscribe to.
I have been part of teams where the leader took the approach that when the group performed well they’d take credit but when the performance missed some key criteria, the leader was quick to throw everyone else under the bus. Not only is this demoralizing for morale but can quickly cause dissention within the group. When I had the opportunity to lead a group, I preferred to let the group enjoy their successes plus also be there to motivate and encourage when performance fell. As Sheninger (2014) indicated, “leadership is about action, not position” (p. 1) and I believe that communication is a key pillar (Sheninger, 2014) not only in traditional leadership roles but even more so when utilizing digital learning environments.
Leadership and digital learning environments:
With environments further transitioning to the use of digital technology such as mobile devices, open-source resources, and always-on connections (Sheninger, 2014), leadership within the digital realm will require stakeholders to be grounded in the foundational elements of leadership while also being cognizant of the ongoing changes that digital infrastructure will bring. Transactional leadership styles of mandates and directives are being replaced by the empowerment, supportive, and analytical methods of adaptive leadership in order for organizations to remain sustainable (Khan, 2017).
Change is ongoing due to the implementation of technology within organizations yet the tenets of leadership pillars described by Sheninger (2014) of communication, public relations, branding, engagement/learning, professional growth/development, re-envisioning of learning spaces/environments, and opportunity are still valid frameworks. Leaders must be prepared to adjust or modify those pillars to fit into the new digital realm or risk being left behind.
To put this into perspective, I can provide a personal example of how to incorporate an adaptive leadership style within a traditional transactional environment while also taking into account the implications of increased usage of digital technology. When I held the position of North American Sales Manager with an international aluminum manufacturing company, I was responsible for the sales targets and revenue for the company while overseeing the results from independent sales representatives located across the continent. The manufacturing world is numbers driven and transactional in nature since a reward was given for achieving a set target.
Sales is not an easy career especially when each sales representative worked independently and were often historically left to figure out for themselves how to achieve the set targets. My philosophy when taking on a leadership role was to help bring a sense of community and trust to the sales team. From the onset, I took the time to get to know and understand the personalities, styles, abilities, and attributes of each representative. While the end goals were the same for each, there needed to be a tailored plan to help get them there. Each person required different training and each had a different understanding and comfort with technology. Some of the representatives had years of experience and some were new so the training and feedback I gave had to take that into account because feedback for seasoned veterans would be different than feedback for novices. As a manager, I had to be reflective (Castelli, 2016) and know when to step in and when to step back in certain situations but by creating an environment with open communication and relationship building while promoting inclusiveness and trust led to a motivated workforce and improved performance.
Castelli, P. (2016). Reflective leadership review: a framework for improving organisational performance. Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236.
Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief Comparison. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(3).
Leadership | Definition of leadership in English by Oxford Dictionaries. (n.d.). Retrieved February 10, 2018, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/leadership
O’Toole, James (2008). Notes Toward a Definition of Values-Based Leadership. The Journal of Values-Based Leadership, 1(1).
Sheninger, E. (2014). Pillars of digital leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education.