“Wisdom is the capacity to think through the consequences of decisions; reflection causes the activity of thought to occur” (Ackoff as cited in Castelli, 2016, p. 220).
Reflection is becoming more and more common in today’s society, as it allows individuals to consider events, lessons learned, and how the experience will affect future actions. While reflection is particularly useful for students, we can all apply it as part of our day-to-day lives as lessons occur long after we leave formal educational settings. I have found that leaders appreciate personnel who can apply a reflective practice, but what I have not seen as much are leaders who lead by example and implement reflection as part of their role. As a team member, I appreciate it when a leader can look back on an event and consider what went well and what needs improvement. Castelli (2016) defines reflective leadership as “the consistent practice of reflection, which involves conscious awareness of behaviours, situations and consequences with the goal of improving organizational performance” (p. 217); therefore, reflective leadership does not only affect the leader as a person, but it also has an impact on the organization. After reading the assigned articles this week, I find that I can connect with the reflective leadership theory both as a non-leader (currently) and as a potential leader (future), in synchronous and asynchronous environments. As changes are commonplace within digital environments, adopting a reflective practice can only help leaders to navigate the changes with those on the team.
Digital environments require strong leaders, though it seems that the assumption in society is that digital environments can make do with any strength of leader. Leaders in digital environments have a much larger space in which to lead their teams and those spaces are continually changing (Sheninger, 2014, para. 6). As these changes come, leaders must be able to manage those changes while still creating a positive environment for the learners or team members. Fortunately, there are theories that can help.
The leaders I have admired the most are those who can take situations and find the best solution in the moment, while involving the team as much as possible. I know that accomplishing that is not always feasible, but as a member of the team I feel valued when the leader takes the time to find out if I have any ideas. In my experience, the only leaders who are able to take that step are those who are comfortable in their role and have a good relationship with the team. These attributes are components of reflective leadership.
A recent activity asked me to rate attributes of leaders; here are the top five attributes I think a leader should have: competent, caring, honest, dependable, and fair minded. As I read the articles, I realized that many leadership types can have these attributes which tells me that leadership theories and styles can blend depending on the leader and what he or she feels is important. As I further consider the above listed attributes, I realize that most professionals have them. That idea makes be wonder why everyone cannot make a good leader. If one has the attributes of a strong leader, would that not automatically make them a strong leader? Sadly, in my experience, the answer is no.
In order for leaders and followers to have the required relationship to make an organization run (either business or education), they need to have a shared goal. Khan (2017) introduces the idea of transactional and adaptive leadership theories (p. 178). I think that in a digital learning environment, it is best to follow the adaptive theory. So much of online work relies on relationships and adaptive leadership allows leaders to utilize those on the team to keep the processes that are working and adopt changes for those that are not. Khan states “[no] leadership theory can address all required actions in contemporary education institutions, but that adaptive leadership is flexible, takes into account current complexities, and is highly motivating for followers” (Khan, 2017, p. 182). There is no all-powerful way to be a good leader. Leadership is a work in process and the style or theory adopted by the individual can change depending on the team members or the set tasks.
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).
Sheninger, E. (2014). Pillars of digital leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/