But I Don’t Own A Pantsuit
From my perspective, the most successful leadership experiences are dynamic, involve being able to read the situation and be the leader needed at that moment. While I have never attempted to reflect on my approach to leadership in the past, I recognize the importance of doing so as Castelli (2016) points out that “A framework for reflective leadership provides an invaluable method for changing old behaviours and outdated practices…” (p. 229). In leading a team, knowing the members’ individual needs and styles is paramount, in my opinion. When deciding on objectives and goals, I often start with my end in mind, then imagine how that end will affect the members’ needs. In a digital environment, being reflective can be built-in, as asynchrony gives leaders the time to pause and determine the whole team’s needs.
A democracy is always great in decision making, but it often takes the most time, and sometimes decisions are top-down and organizational mandates need to be adopted. In these cases, I have found myself skating a fine line between commiserating with the team regarding broad-stroke changes and defending the organization by discovering the sliver-linings within top-down decisions. A good leader is adaptive and senses change (Khan, 2017). It is this change that some members find unsettling, and as seen by an innovation adoption model, nearly half of folks fall into the late adopters and laggards (Rogers, 2003). This means, in this age of a pandemic, as many leadership roles are handled virtually, some members could feel left behind. Inevitably, I grapple with knowing that as a leader, you cannot always be everyone’s friend, and you cannot please everyone all of the time. Therein lies the crux of my insecurity.
So, what about leadership in today’s digital landscape? As Kouzes & Posner (2011) discuss “…bringing out the best in others” (p. 6), I find myself agreeing with that sentiment. I often wonder if we shouldn’t be choosing leaders based on their ability to foster and uplift other leaders? I also believe technology has made my leadership style (brevity and concision) more of a reality. I am not one for the long staff meeting or touchy-feely retreat sessions, so the email and asynchronous sessions find their way into my toolkit. I do, however, enjoy humour and the quick communication outlets that digital technology offers me. Humour is underrated as a leadership trait, in my opinion. What technology seeks to find in meaningful connection, it finds in bringing people together over space. Space that right now, in a pandemic, is a necessity.
Leadership is often thrust upon teachers, mainly because the broader organization needs principals and vice-principals, so recruitment is necessary. I find that most teachers do not go into the field of teaching to become principals. I know I did not. Yet, I feel as though I am on this unstoppable conveyor belt that I cannot possibly step off of. It ends with me in a pantsuit, sitting in an office all day, reading budgets and talking to angry parents about how I have their child sitting in my office for spitting on the noon-hour supervisor. I do know, as Sheninger (2019) states, “…leadership is about action, not position” (p. 1). Maybe that means I will set out to lead, but from a position that does not require a pantsuit.
Castelli, P. A. (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
Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or transactional leadership in current higher education: A brief comparison. International Review of Research in Open and Distance Learning, 18(3), 178–183. https://doi.org/10.19173/irrodl.v18i3.3294
Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2011). Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose It, Why People Demand It, In Quality Management Journal (Vol. 19, Issue 3, pp. 69–70). https://doi.org/10.1080/10686967.2012.11918075
Rogers, E. M. (2003). Diffusion of innovations (5th ed.). Free Press. Retrieved from https://books.google.ca/books
Sheninger, E. (2019). Pillars of Digital Leadership. International Center for Leadership in Education. https://leadered.com/pillars-of-digital-leadership/