The skills and attributes needed of leaders today has changed. It is widely agreed that due to globalization, digitalization, and multinational and multicultural workforces that traditional western business models and leadership practices may be out of touch with the reality of the 21st (Castelli, 2016; Julien et al., 2010; Fitzgerald, 2003). Something I personally have struggled with as a leader in my organization is making decisions. Based on my past experiences, personal values, and what I have learned through the Unit 1 readings most specifically, Castelli (2016) and Julien et al. (2010), I have begun to develop some strategies that will help me make decisions as a leader of digital learning initiatives in my organization drawing on principles of reflective leadership and Indigenous leadership practices.
Acknowledging the interconnectedness of all things
Western leadership approaches are criticized for compartmentalizing and not acknowledging the interconnectedness of all people and things whereas Indigenous leadership culture emphasizes a holistic and integrative approach (Castelli, 2016; Julien et al., 2010). A holistic approach to leadership modeled in reflective leadership and Indigenous leadership practice will be more conducive to employee empowerment and engagement in my organization by involving employees in a long-term, inclusive vision of the organization that places value on their position within that vision.
Respecting and acknowledging history and making forward thinking decisions with an understanding of how they will impact the people and organization in the future
In Julien et al.’s 2010 study, an Indigenous leader shared their forward-looking approach to making decisions where the impact of the decision is considered seven generations into the future and if the decision does not offer positive impact for that future then it is not a good decision for the now. When I took the role with my organization as leader of online learning and development, I inherited an employee base with a negative attitude towards online learning due to a past haphazard attempt at online learning that failed to acknowledge the needs of employees, their leaders, and provide a future vision. Four years later, I am still overcoming some of the barriers this caused and it is my goal to ensure that once my time with the organization ends that my contributions will leave behind a digital learning environment that positively impacts the future people and organization. The intentional development of sound decision making strategies will support this by ensuring that the past and the future is acknowledged in all decisions that we are making today.
Relying on intrinsic strengths to make decisions and lead over extrinsic strengths
Julien et al.’s 2010 research findings suggest that spirituality and personal wisdom are fundamental processes of Indigenous leadership allowing for deep reflection when making decisions. Reflective leadership challenges leaders to use and trust their internal thought processes and is based on self-awareness, mindfulness, and personal wisdom over the external characteristics of knowledge and experience (2010). This is now more important than ever in our digitally connected world where technology affords us a plethora of available knowledge resources and experiences that were once inaccessible to many, locking that knowledge within individuals and qualifying them to lead. Now, more importantly we need leaders with intrinsic awareness who will be critical thinkers and innovative problem solvers that place equal value on the needs of their people as they do on the needs of the organization.
As suggested by Julien et al. (2010), reflective leadership provides a method for improving upon outdated leadership practices that no longer serve the current needs. I find it fascinating that in answering the call for change in leadership practice to meet the modern day needs of our people and organizations that many of the solutions offered by reflective leadership are in direct alignment with the most traditional leadership practices shared by Indigenous leaders. This highlights the importance of awareness of our own biases and assumptions of how things are or should be done and in overcoming these biases we can look at leadership through alternative lenses that may provide much to offer for the complex and changing digital learning landscapes of the 21st century.
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
Fitzgerald, T. (2003). Changing the deafening silence of indigenous women’s voices in educational leadership. Journal of Educational Administration, 41(1), 9–23. https://doi.org/10.1108/09578230310457402/FULL/PDF
Julien, M., Wright, B., & Zinni, D. M. (2010). Stories from the circle: Leadership lessons learned from aboriginal leaders. The Leadership Quarterly, 21(1), 114–126. https://doi.org/10.1016/J.LEAQUA.2009.10.009