Leadership in a Digital Age

ILD831 has been a tour de force of the current state of play in the digital revolution and I appreciated (as I have appreciated throughout the program) the opportunity to gain perspectives from outside my field on these crucial topics.

Michele Martin’s deep dive brought a lot of things full circle for me this week:

  • The end of the unworkable, unrealistic “leader as hero” model… this reminded me of the very first course we took (ILD801) in that one of the thrusts of that course was that the “classic” model of leadership, the so-called “great man” theory, was not adequate to explain leadership - instead, the authors of the main course text posited that leadership is “a relationship between leaders and followers within a social group.” This is even more true today than it was eight years ago when that statement was written, and it dovetails with the concept of wirearchy versus hierarchy and how tomorrow’s networked work environments may be different.

  • The “Skills for Success in a Disruptive World of Work” infographic in the deep dive highlighted some themes we have been discussing over the last two months, namely:

    • Leadership is needed to locate the signal amidst the noise (including the location of credible/reliable sources and constant “filtering” a lá Kelly) and…

    • …to be able to focus relentlessly on the signal (developing a sound, future-oriented strategy in cooperation with others)

  • Focused, critical thinking, and the ability to be a “host” or a hub for new ideas and creative solutions is essential to leadership, moving forward.

Another key takeaway from the course is that if we thought the last 20 years were disruptive, we are really going to need to hang on to our hats, because the next 30 could be even more disruptive and transformative, particularly with regard to artificial intelligence (AI) and virtual and/or augmented reality. As leaders, we will need to stay humble and learn to embrace our status as constant newbies. As we can no longer hoard information or “manage knowledge” the way we used to want to, or know everything that is knowable about every computing platform, application, or new technology, we will need to learn how to be comfortable in an endless state of beginning. Much like becoming a parent for the first time (or the second time, or the third time), this is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.

We also need to remember that some things are truly timeless, like values, ethics, and other core beliefs and skills. If “soft AI” comes to pass, it will need people to work alongside it and imbue its use with digital ethics. If about half of the population believes that more jobs will be displaced than will be created in the coming decades, leadership will be needed to navigate this unique event in human economic history - and to develop relevant policy accordingly. If the other half of the population is correct, leadership will also be needed to embrace these new jobs (entirely new fields?) and to prepare the next generation for the new world they will inhabit.

Ultimately, I have been thinking about how I can change my approach based on what I have learned in this course. I should be proactive about participating in our organization’s conversation about what the future of learning will look like and how I can best serve our strategic plan to get there. I can also do more to share EdTech ideas with others and to encourage them to share ideas with me, so that we can all learn and grow together - networks, not hierarchical professional development sessions. This was a perfect “summertime elective” in that the time away from the daily grind gave ideas in the course some oxygen. I look forward to the fall, when I will be rested, relaxed, and better equipped to take part in higher-level conversations than I would normally be in May or June.

I would say “thank you” at this conclusion to our journey, but after all, we are just beginning!