Throughout various contexts, leaders are integral in shaping diverse learning and working environments. Leadership can be approached in a variety of ways, which can result in a spectrum of desired or undesired outcomes. Along my journey of both being a leader and being led, I have honed in on an adaptive and reflective leadership approach, that can be impactful within face-to-face and digital contexts. By considering different theories of leadership, I can reflect on my preferred approach and how it can be maximized for effectiveness within a digital learning environment.
One of the tasks this week for “LRNT525 – Leading Change in Digital Learning” was to rank leadership attributes. I found this exercise thought-provoking, in trying to decide which attributes are more important than others. Interestingly, the leadership attribute I valued the most, trustworthiness, was not on the list. Consequently, the leadership attributes I ranked within the top four were being competent, co-operative, dependable and honest. I believe that these four attributes are strongly aligned to trustworthiness within a leader. In my experience, people can be managed to complete tasks, however, trust is needed to effectively lead towards a common vision. As I thought about leadership and what makes a strong leader, I reflected on my formal leadership roles in the past and the type of leader I was.
For parts on my professional life, I have held both formal and informal leadership roles. In one formal leadership role, I was the Coordinator for a youth leadership development program. Within this position, I provided leadership to four staff members. If I were to best describe my leadership style during this time, it was a combination of adaptive and reflective leadership while striving to develop leadership capacity in colleagues. Adaptive leaders need to consider external factors that may impact their organization as they lead (Khan, 2017). Being keenly aware of outside dynamics such as funding, parents’ expectations, changes in school schedules, etc. all could affect the program, since participation in the youth program was voluntary. A reflective approach was utilized because the staff and I were in the earlier stages of our careers. Having a respectful, supportive and trusting environment was key to success and effective collaboration. Reflective leadership relies on being mindful and aware of one’s behaviour and how it relates to staff (Castelli, 2016). Being able to engage in critical self-reflection, solicit and provide constructive feedback, while celebrating accomplishments, created an atmosphere of trust. This resonated within our team, as seen through achieving our program goals and outcomes. I was learning alongside other colleagues and supporting team members to develop their own leadership skills was integral, as they engaged in growth in development. It was important to ensure opportunities existed for others to take the lead in planning, organizing and representing our organization, as these opportunities fostered increased leadership capacity (Huggins, Klar, Hammonds & Buskey, 2017). Over time, all team members were able to move into roles where learning from working within the program, could be applied to new and exciting career advancement opportunities.
A combination of adaptive and reflective leadership were effective approaches for me in the past. I think this type of leadership blend would work well when leading change in digital learning environments. To effectively implement a digital learning environment requires forethought and an awareness of the external structures that make up an institution’s digital identity. As well, one requires awareness of current and emerging technologies that can be effective within a specific educational space, reinforcing the need for an adaptive style of leadership. Moreover, to effectively implement changes in digital learning environments requires a holistic approach, which includes considering what quality communication means online and face-to-face, showing empathy and consideration for others and creating a loop of feedback that moves digital learning environments forward. This approach is emblematic of the reflective style of leadership. Thus, both the adaptive and reflective styles of leadership are impactful within digital learning environments.
Castelli, P. (2016). Reflective leadership review: a framework for improving organisational performance. Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236. https://doi.org/10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0112
Huggins, K. , Klar, H., Hammonds, H. & Buskey, F. (2017). Developing leadership capacity in others: An examination of high school principals’ personal capacities for fostering leadership. International Journal of Education Policy and Leadership, 12(1). Retrieved from: http://journals.sfu.ca/ijepl/index.php/ijepl/article/view/670
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). https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i3.3294