Strong communication skills are vital to be considered a good leader. The list from Acitivty 2 is filled with attributes which are remarkable, such as broad/fair minded, caring, competent and honest, but if a leader cannot communicate effectively, I feel the team (as well as the leader) suffers. I have had leaders who embody many of the characteristics from the list we had to discuss with out team, but sadly they fell short when it came to communicating. Because of this, I noticed I cared less about what attributes were brought to the table and due to frustration, didn’t look at their redeemable qualities.
I found it very refreshing to read both Khan and Sheninger’s insights, probably because they supported my opinion in regard to communication being key in the leadership role. There are times where I find it difficult to stand back and look at myself objectively, but I was able to do that through this exercise. I never thought of myself as a leader, but I suppose we all are in some capacity. I teach online classes and reading through the material made me relate more to my students as their needs are similar to mine now that I am an online learner. I know when I am engaged in an online class, as I communicate more frequently with my students and the feedback from the learners is very positive, constructive and meaningful. With that being said, when I get busy in my face-to-face classes, it is usually my online class that suffers and again the feedback mirrors this.
The introduction of digital technologies has created a large shift in my role as an educator in the past 5 years. I went from teaching strictly face-to-face with D2L as a “good to have” to now – leaning heavily on technology to keep things interesting, to motivate and monitor students. I feel the most important theory to use in a digital learning environment would be adaptive learning, as the digital world continues to advance, and it does not look like it is slowing down anytime soon. Interestingly, I saw myself shift between both of Khan’s theories: when leading a team of colleagues, I implore the adaptive leadership theory. Teaching a class, I follow the transactional learning theory. Working in the world of online education means there is constant change and advancement, we must always be prepared to receive continual updates, upgrades and changes. I notice that to be a good leader, I must stay on top of this for the team. However, when dealing with students, it is more transactional as I am always eager to see what more I can offer for them to get better grades/take away more from the class.
I have held a few leadership roles and I can confidently say that experience, maturity and making mistakes made me a better leader. I used to think I should be everyone’s friend and always lend an empathetic ear, but in a leadership role this was detrimental for me. It wasn’t until I came into my current role and I met a leader who was very straight forward, yet compassionate that made me take notes on the leader I wanted to be. This leader was competent, in control and honest… almost to a fault. But she was someone that got results and she was in constant communication with the team, regardless of how busy or overwhelmed she was. Kouzes & Posner point out that leadership is a relationship and we must get rid of the hierarchy that used to be attached to the role to move forward. If a leader is to be truly successful, they must gain credibility without losing who they are and their principles, continually driving forward their agenda.
Leaders, both good and bad teach us things about ourselves that we can use and apply in school, work and our day to day lives. I don’t think the perfect leader exists and I genuinely think that everyone looks for something different in their ideal leader, especially in the ever growing digital world. Sheninger sums it up perfectly for me “Leadership is no different today than it was years ago. The only difference is that style and focus need to change with the times if we are to accomplish the lofty task of preparing students for a dynamic world, that is more socially connected as a result of technology” (Sheninger, 2014)
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), 178-183.
Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2011). The characteristics of admired leaders. In Credibility : How leaders gain and lose it, why people demand it. San Francisco, Calif.: Jossey-Bass. Retrieved from Skillsoft e-book database.
Sheninger, E. (2014). Pillars of digital leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education.
James M. Kouzes and Barry Z. Posner. (2012) The Leadership Challenge (San Francisco: Jossey-Bass)