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.

References:

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 https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/competence

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

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