Good or Bad

 Good or bad: themes that keep surfacing.

April 30, 2015
Leaders let their people do, make, create, and experiment

Before I get started with the crux of this post, I feel compelled to share a bit about the process that went into its construction. First, I thought about a conversation that I had with Simon Thomson from Leeds Beckett University about all things digital: literacy, confidence, identity, competency, and making. Then, I started mulling over the facets of leadership that complemented the topics from our conversation. After several cups of coffee, and some auditory assistance from SoundCloud, I had written out some keywords that would become the building blocks for a new post. Note, throughout this entire process, I was responding to emails, scheduling meetings, checking Twitter, and making my way through about 45 browser tabs of posts that I found fascinating. Finally, I went searching for an image to go with the post. Sometimes new posts can be written in 30 minutes and more often than not, a post requires a fair amount of time to germinate.

Oh, one more thing, I also like to look at posts that I've written for IHE that might be relevant to the post that I'm currently working on. What always amazes me is that the same themes keep bubbling up to the surface. In fact, if you took the dates off of a lot of my posts, going back all the way to 2010, there are so many concepts, concerns, challenges, and ideas that are quite worthwhile even in 2015.

One of the issues that consistently comes to the forefront of my thinking is the influence of leadership on organizational culture and how it all relates to technology adoption, experimentation, innovation, creativity, fear, and dissonance. The challenges that I've written about when it comes to digital leadership are the same challenges that people share with me when I'm at a campus.

We can clearly identify what we know: our leaders influence our organizational culture in profound ways. And, when you add technology and/or social media to the mix, leadership is everything. If a senior leader is keen to engage or experiment with new apps or social media sites, the organizational impact is palpable. The trickle-down effect (our organizations are extremely hierarchical) of leadership can have substantial influence on how the entire organization utilizes useful technologies.

For example, I was working with a group of mid-level employees at an institution. One of the employees wanted to utilize Twitter as a communications channel to connect with students. However, they were reluctant to try Twitter in this way because they were concerned about a lack of support from their senior leader. This type of subtle influence happens quite a bit at our organizations. We can identify it, but we struggle with figuring out a solution. Yes, it's possible in some cases to simply implement something (without getting permission) and then "ask for forgiveness later." However, this often causes a lot of friction within an organization. In order for a team to truly be a team, leaders need to realize that they need to adopt/experiment with communications technologies like social media in order to positively influence the overall organization.

However, I realize that not all leaders will take the time to learn/experiment with all things digital. That's okay, although it does shed some light on a leader who isn't in a state of lifelong learning/evolution. Leaders teach when they are in the know and learn when they don't. That being said, if you as a leader don't want to tweet, blog, or post, at least let your people experiment. Use your leadership position to create an organizational culture that is flush with opportunities for learning and growth. Be the champion (digital and analog) for your staff. And, if a technology-based initiative should fail, focus on what the organization has learned from the experience, and do better next time.



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