February ninth, I authored Digital leaders wanted: Applications accepted online only in which I reflected upon preferred leadership traits identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012) and postulated that the qualities leaders required for modernized learning environments were evolving. Sheninger (2019) posited that digital learning environments required digital leaders that would champion the use of digital technologies, which is no surprise to someone in the field, and who walks the tightrope, balancing at the intersection of pedagogy and technology. Seven weeks have passed since authoring that piece. Upon reflection, I cannot help noting the quirk of fate unfolding, with the presently occurring world events not only permeating through the membrane of ordinary life but also within my work and studies. Educational technologies have become the popular kids, with institutions and faculty scrambling to shift teaching and learning to remote delivery in the wake of social distancing and campus closures. These events have impacted and changed my perspective of needed leadership qualities, as the moving parts become increasingly complex, occurring in a time, space, distance, and dollars pressure cooker. Leaders will continue to require the seminal traits identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012), and digital leadership (Sheninger, 2019) becomes more relevant, as the whole world seemingly realizes the potential of educational technologies. Also evident to us in the trenches are the enormous gaps that exist, barriers that require project leaders to approach these changes empathetically.
Leaders in this pressure cooker have not had the luxury of time to plan for these changes and implementations strategically. Plans drafted mere weeks ago, envisioned and detailed on organized Gantt charts (Gantt.com, 2016, para. 1), are suddenly injected with unprecedented urgency as project leaders quickly embrace the transformation of traditional learning environments and re-envision teaching and learning. The sudden influx of requests from faculty for support in using technologies to support students in meeting course learning outcomes has been a little overwhelming, but we are all muddling through. I am fortunate that my leaders possess the seminal and digital leadership characteristics identified by Kouzes and Posner (2012), and Sheninger (2019) and who have embraced a collaborative approach, designating each member of the Teaching and Learning Commons as invaluable champions of change. My role in supporting this change is targeted; nevertheless, it is fluid with the needs of every situation. Hundreds of faculty and thousands of students; necessitate individualized supports. Considerations of digital skills and literacies, access, data and security, connectivity, devices, equipment, and readiness (Weiner, 2019) are vital in each situation. Moving diverse faculty into varying degrees of digital spaces; requires empathy, training, and resources. I am discovering that being a leader of change in these times demands innovative approaches, collaboration, a positivist attitude, confidence, knowledge, and extreme flexibility.
In recent weeks, our daily interactions have changed, as have our social conventions, our considerations for safety and security, and how we work and learn. Educational technologies have become the flavour of the day; the popular kids; and instructional designers, strategists, and project leaders are learning in motion how to support this sudden interest. Perhaps the trick is in triaging want versus need, the emergent continuance of education versus a sudden shift to online learning; maybe the method is the acknowledgement that we are all in this time of change together and must all exhibit the desired characteristic of leaders.
Are you a leader of change in the pressure cooker? What leadership traits do you consider vital in this chaotic and transformational time?
Gantt.com (2016). What Is a Gantt Chart? Gantt Chart Information, History and Software. [online] Retrieved from http://www.gantt.com
Kouzes, J., & Posner, B. (2012). The leadership challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5th ed.). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.
Sheninger, E. (2019, December). Pillars of Digital Leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education. Retrieved from http://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/
Weiner, B. J. (2009). A theory of organizational readiness for change. Implementation Science, 4(1), 67. https://doi.org/10.1186/1748-5908-4-67