Change: Leadership in Digital Environments – A Roadmap to Success


Al-Haddad & Kotnour and Biech noted some common elements within leadership with change: identify problem, create resource availability, invitation, train, support and review. This conception of how to deal with change in leadership can be adapted for a change within digital learning environments. Sheninger notes the 7 Pillars to Success for implementing change within digital learning environments, and even these notions show common elements to the above mentioned theories.

We start the roadmap with the concept of identifying a need for change. “Proper planning and analysis help[s] identify the gap between where the organization is now and where it wants to be” (Al-Haddad and Kotnour, 2015, p. 243). This process is important and leads to creating the vision for change.

The vision for change requires a buy in from all employees in the organization. In order to create change and be effective leaders, everyone needs to see the same vision and creation of opportunity that can be implemented by change. The downside of vision, is the sense of loss. “People go through phases as they adjust to change and people perceive change as a loss – if only as the loss of what was” (Biech, 2007).

Communicating within the digital age is looked at as a hurdle. “Important information can be communicated through various free social media tools and simple implementation strategies in order to meet stakeholders in the digital age” (Sheninger, 2014). Sheninger’s theory on communication is applicable to education or learning environments as well. There are many social media tools, or learning platform tools, that allow students and instructors to communicate effectively ensuring that students and professor remain on the same learning/course path.

The evaluation of performance provides a roadmap for students to see what and how they are going to achieve their grade or result in the course. This metric provides a clear picture of what is required for students to achieve success, but also providing an opportunity for growth. Evaluation provides a sense of effectiveness, efficiency, quality, and productivity (Al-Haddad and Kotnour, 2015, p. 241). By setting objectives and metrics on how to measure those objectives, students can see where they went wrong and instructors can see where more communication may be needed, where a problem may exist, and/or how they can improve to ensure students are receiving the information they needed for success. “Evaluating the impact of the change is an important step of closure, but deciding what to do with what you learn is also important” (Biech, 2007).

Support is an element that is often forgotten or rendered unnecessary. Students require support to ensure comprehension, clarification, or verification of their thought. Providing students the opportunity to reach out for support and assistance through different digital mediums can allow students to feel more comfortable and heard. Biech speaks to reflecting and supporting the learning with reflection (Biech, 2007). Upon reflection, students can review to see where they feel their needs are not being met, providing upwards feedback. Top down feedback is provided through performance evaluation, through criticism and critique. Instructors can incorporate self-reflection, looking at how they can improve their leadership. Along with reflection, is support during the process of change. “Consistently seek out ways to improve existing programs, resources, and professional development through technology” (Sheninger, 2014). Through support, instructors can alter the course, creating a stronger learning environment along the roadmap of learning.


Al-Haddad, S., & Kotnour, T. (2015). Integrating the organizational change literature: a model for successful changeJournal of Organizational Change Management28(2), 234-262.

Biech, E. (2007). Models for Change. In Thriving Through Change: A Leader’s Practical Guide to Change Mastery. Alexandria, VA: ASTD Press.  [Retrieved from Skillsoft e-book database]

Sheninger, E. (2014). Pillars of digital leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education.




Understanding Leadership

I have been a leader in many different aspects of my life.  I was the captain and leader of sports teams through my athletic career.  I was the leader, sometimes voted and sometimes volunteered, throughout my academic career.  I am the leader, owner, of an accounting firm.  I am a University Instructor.  I am a parent.  My approach to leadership is different depending on each situation and each environment I am in. For example, I teach online and face-to-face courses.  Teaching online, I use a very different approach for my students than I do if I am face-to-face.  I provide recordings and many different communication outlets, as well as online office hours and additional online support networks for students who need assistance.  For my face-to-face courses, they must be in class to submit assignments and receive lecture material.  I provide office hour support for students, which require a face-to-face meeting.  In order to teach a course online online, I needed to adapt and redesign my course for online distribution, as well as the support being provided.

Understanding that leaders must adapt to their environment, seems like an obvious concept.  Where there seems to be a loss, is what adaptation means.  To me, adaptation is understanding the surroundings, understanding the issues that come with a certain type of environment, understanding what pitfalls may lay ahead or how to cope when hitting challenges.  Being a leader is a tough job, but preparing to lead is where you can really make a difference for others’ experiences.

Khan speaks to two different types of leadership, adaptive leadership and transactional leadership (Khan, 2017).  Adaptive leadership takes into account the environment and external factors, versus transactional leadership which stresses on the relationship between the leader and follower (Khan, 2017).  It’s interesting to view these two types of leadership separately.  Personally, I feel like you would be an adaptive leader to enhance the relationship between the leader and follower.  It makes sense to me that a leader should incorporate external environmental factors and change accordingly to ensure a better reaction, response, and experience for the follower.

There are several leadership values or attributes that I would like to highlight including: competence, intelligence, and supportive.  Competence is defined as “the quality or state of having sufficient knowledge, judgment, skill, or strength (as for a particular duty or in a particular respect)” (Merriam-Webster, 2020).  A leader must be competent in the duty or skill that they are asking or requiring others to complete, no matter the environment, this value holds true.  “To do this, leaders must understand the origins of fear and misconceptions that often surround the use of technology, such as social media and mobile devices” (Sheninger, 2014).  Understanding how students interact with the learning platform, how to ensure engagement, how to check responsiveness to messages or assignments are examples of being a competent leader.  Intelligence can often be misunderstood for having the same meaning as competence.  I think they differ by one major concept, the ability to grasp information.  By this I mean, reading and understanding information, thinking on one’s feet, and the ability to change and grow as you move through an activity.  This is intelligence.  This idea of grasping information can mean the difference for a follower or students experience.  Instructors must prepare and understand how the materials will be received by students and how the students can submit those materials.  The last value I would like to touch on is supportive.  So often, as instructors, students look to us for advice and guidance.  I have students meet with me on a regular basis to ask about professional careers and opportunities.  There is another aspect to support as well, supporting students or followers through a course.  As leaders, we must have the ability to support the learners and help them grasp the knowledge we are trying to distribute.  Our job is to teach, yes, but we are leading a classroom full of young minds looking to soak up and understand the content.  How we do that and the support we provide in doing that, is so important.

One of the issues I have found with incorporating technological advancements into programs or courses, is the number of resources.  There are so many different types of platforms and resources, that it is easy to get overwhelmed as both a leader and as a learner or follower.  Narrowing down communication outlets, how and where leaners get the information, has become vital to ensure a stronger experience for learners and followers.


Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief ComparisonThe International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning18(3).

Merriam-Webster. (2020). Competence. Retrieved from

Sheninger, E. (2014). Pillars of digital leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education.