There will be a new normal which no-one truly can predict completely but our world and our lives are, and will, certainly be different post-crisis.
(Ice, 2020; Monash University, 2020).
Over the last year, it is evident that the pandemic has changed education in ways that no one would have predicted. As we all navigate the new normal, the main focus has become leadership styles, and which one will be preeminent in a digital learning environment. Over the last decade, researchers have focused on Transformational Leadership as an effective leadership strategy to implement within public and private sector organizations (Hassan et al.,2018). Presidential biographer James MacGregor Burns was the first to introduce Transformational leadership in the late 1970s. According to Burns, transformational leadership is apparent when “leaders and followers make each other advance to a higher level of morale and motivation.”
Transformational leadership is a leadership style that has been shown to inspire positive changes in those who follow. Transformational leaders tend to be emotionally intelligent, energetic, and passionate. They are committed to assisting organizations to achieve their goals and assisting group members in realizing their potential. Research shows that this leadership style results in higher performance and more improved group satisfaction than other leadership styles. (Choi et al., 2016)
As we navigate the new digital era, a new propagated Transformational leader must find new avenues to build confidence, inspire action, gain support, and create environments that derange old assumptions and worn-out models to empower growth. A digital Transformation leader will bring forward three new methods to assist in creating new online digital environments. They include new opportunities for provoking thoughts within an organization that will create a democracy and allows those to think, plan and act transparently. The methods for applying a Transformational leadership style in the digital era all have one thing in common: transparency, communicating well, provoking debate to improve transparency, and seeking collaborative input. As the digital era has created ambiguity and constant change, it has also led to impressive technological complexity and competitor disruption. Those leaders who allow autonomy for their team members have seen positive advancements within the organization. It is also imperative that leaders remind their teams that they are not working alone and are a vital part of a team, resulting in a more cohesive, positive team environment (Pialat,2020).
In 1985 Bernard M. Bass expanded upon Burns’s original ideas to develop Bass’s Transformational Leadership Theory. According to Bass, transformational leadership can be defined based on the impact that it has on followers. He also believes four factors are imperative to encouraging growth and positive change in a team. The four factors are intellectual stimulation, individualized consideration, inspirational motivation, and Idealized influence.
Dissecting Bass’s Transformational Leadership Theory with my professional network.
Consulting with professional colleges within my department, we examined and dissected the four phases of Bass’s Transformation Leadership theory within our current leadership team.
We found this to be exceptionally relevant during our current challenges with digital pedagogy and allowing educators the autonomy required to create new digital online learning environments. Our leadership team challenged the status quo and encouraged creativity among the team. The leadership team encouraged the faculty to explore new ways of delivering online pedagogy and new learning opportunities. We had the autonomy to implement synchronous and asynchronous lectures using the Brightspace and Zoom platforms while creating online video demonstrations (Choclker, 2021).
Our leadership team offered support and encouragement to the faculty. Leadership made significant decisions on how faculty would proceed with online education. Leadership ensured we were comfortable facilitating our home environments by offering an office in a box program (Dudley, 2021). This ensured faculty had the tools required to educate our learners within a positive digital learning environment. This enabled each faculty member to foster supportive relationships with each other and leadership. It allowed communication lines to remain open so that the faculty felt free to share ideas (Stoness, 2021). The leadership team also offered immediate recognition for faculty members who thought outside the box and assisted in student success (Dudley, 2021).
Our leadership team did not have a clear vision and goals to articulate to their faculty at the beginning of the pandemic (Stoness, 2021). Our leadership team eventually assisted faculty in creating and delivering a Practical Applications in Teaching online (PATO) course to assist faculty with online course delivery (Dudley, 2021). Leadership created academic policies to align with online delivery methods, which alleviated faculty stress about delivering courses online (Choclker, 2021). Leadership worked with faculty ensuring those who had differing comfort levels with technology were successful from working from home (Stoness, 2021).
The leadership team served as a role model for faculty members. They ensured that each faculty member had the opportunity to share ideas. Transparency and trust are at the forefront, and Transformational leaders must also ensure they are ethical and promote autonomy. At the beginning of the pandemic, this was an issue as leadership was not fully transparent with the available online learning platforms or had the appropriate training in place (Dudley, 2021). When leadership was not transparent, it was challenging to navigate the platforms as we had received no official training. While leadership floundered with our new normal, Cheryl-Haley became a natural leader. During our time of uncertainty, with technology navigating Brightspace, Zoom, and our Excel issues, she became an integral part of the leadership team. She naturally embraced a leadership role and ensured everyone was comfortable with the platforms used to deliver lectures (Choclker, 2021). Regardless of her commitments, Cheryl-Haley ensured that there was no lack of personal interaction. Anyone struggling with technology students or faculty did not have the opportunity to get lost behind a screen, as she ensured colleagues overcame their issues with technology (Dudley, 2021).
Reflecting upon my discussion with my colleagues, they felt that I stepped up and led our team when our leadership team could not. I did not see myself as a leader. I saw myself as someone who shared knowledge with others to ensure they successfully flipped pedagogy to a digital format for student success. We concluded that regardless of our leadership team and leadership style, leadership is not always about who is in charge and who makes the rules. Leadership can come from within a team. Everyone, regardless of their position within our department, has the opportunity to lead as we head into our new normal of digital pedagogy.
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