As a child, when I think of great leaders, my initial thoughts were naturally drawn to those that had massive followers, made a positive historical impact, and had greatly influenced the community. My leadership beliefs were shaped by the idea of leaders as a heroic figure. As I matured and became a leader myself, my beliefs and values shifted to align with the contemporary views on leadership. We live in a world connected by digital technologies. The ubiquity of social media and mobile devices (Sheninger, 2019), made it possible to connect with people wherever and whenever. The proliferation of information and communication technologies has significantly impacted organizations to be nimble to adapt to the fast-paced and dynamic nature of the 21st-century environment (Khan, 2017). To support the contemporary issues of the modern age, a body of literature has delved into the more recent leadership theories, and to name a few: transformational, servant, emotional intelligence, adaptive, and reflective leadership have risen as new ways of leading. What resonated with me the most are the values and traits of an adaptive and reflective leader.
In today’s digital age, I believe that adaptive and reflective leadership values are imperative to lead in a complex society. Khan (2017) argued that adaptive leadership is more effective in dealing with the complexity of changes that are happening in the 21st century. She further asserted that “the flexibility and orientation toward change offered by adaptive leadership theory provide a strategy to respond to demands for change about the need for greater access through open and distributed learning, new technology, funding decreases, student demographics, and globalization” (p. 182). To be an adaptive leader requires both self and environmental awareness and empathy. This reflective practice, an attribute of a reflective leader, I think, is complementary to the values of adaptive leadership. According to Castelli (2016), the dynamic and fast-paced of the business environment requires reflective leadership that practices mindfulness, trust, and empathy.” Fluency in digital skills and literacy is another essential skill for leaders. Sheninger (2019), posited the importance of developing digital leadership and harness the emerging and innovative digital technologies to “establish direction, influence others, and initiate sustainable change” (para.5).
I have been in the management role for several years, and this opportunity of managing a department allowed me to learn to be a leader. From my experience, leadership is a process and a journey. I had plenty of growing pains through stretch assignments, staff issues, budget constraints, and adapting to the complexity of the fast-paced and dynamic business environment. There is also the tension I faced and is still facing as a woman of colour in a leadership role. Although the organization I work for engender a culture of openness, transparency, and diversity, it is still predominantly lead by C-suites of white men. Where does the role of feminist leadership come to play? According to Batliwala (2010, p. 13), “the goals of feminism is a distribution of power and seeking an egalitarian relationship that necessitates attending not only to gender but also the systemic forms of oppression and privileges.” The struggle for equal opportunity is not a contemporary issue that women face. It is a past, present, and maybe a future issue. As Batliwala (2010), asserted in her paper, there is the tendency to generalize women and feminism, that as if women’s issues such as past experiences, culture, and societal (patriarchal versus matriarchal) issues can be all lumped together to develop strategies to promote women and feminist leadership. Unfortunately, this is not the case since their beliefs and values and, most importantly, their past, whether they are good or bad experiences, influenced how women lead. My key take-away from my leadership readings is power dynamics between gender, social classes, and race are issues facing 21st-century digital leadership. As a leader, it is essential to “step across the threshold” (Senge, 2015, 0:37), and illuminate the road ahead for other emerging leaders, women and men, for equal participation in leading. Senge (2015, 2:26) described leadership as “the capacity of a human community to shape its future.” Now I am asking you, my fellow cohort, what is it about leadership that ignites the flame in your spirit?
Batliwala, S. (2010). Feminist Leadership for Social Transformation: Clearing the Conceptual Cloud. Creating Resources for Empowerment in Action. Retrieved from https://justassociates.org/sites/justassociates.org/files/feminist-leadership-clearing-conceptual-cloud-srilatha-batliwala.pdf
Castelli, P. A. (2016). Reflective leadership review: A framework for improving organisational performance. The Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236. Retrieved from http://dx.doi.org.ezproxy.royalroads.ca/10.1108/JMD-08-2015-0112
Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief Comparison. International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18 (3), 178-183. Retrieved from Royal Roads University Moodle database.
Sarder, R. (2015). Peter Senge on what makes a great leader [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1aYaj2-GZqk&feature=youtu.be
Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of digital leadership. International Center for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/