Building a network of like-minded people is an essential part of your leadership toolkit. This blog discusses how to approach growing leadership competency regardless of job title, a skill discussed by participants in OLC’s cohort-based professional development program, the Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning. Applications for the IELOL 2023 Program are open until April 28.
One of the leadership lessons I have learned over the years is to “bloom where you are planted.” I first encountered this nearly 25 years ago when I was in a K12 teaching role and completing my master’s degree in educational leadership at Pepperdine University. I wanted a bigger, more formal leadership role beyond the classroom. It was Dr. Bob Paull who told me–and all of us in my cohort–that we were already leaders and that we should see ourselves that way. This was a big mindshift for me, but it instantly made sense. I was a leader in my classroom for each and every group of students I was shepherding through their learning. And I wasn’t the only learner, either, but the “chief learner” in my classroom. What an interesting and amazing way to look at oneself as a young educational leader.
I took this new mindset with me into all of my later roles in instructional design and higher ed. No matter what formal role I was in, my job was–on some level–leadership. An ID leads projects and leads others to new understanding and so on. And once I adopted this leadership mindset, I sought to grow my skills and expand my leadership toolkit at every opportunity. This was done through different kinds of professional development, incorporating lessons learned through reflection and socialization of ideas with other leaders.
When I was in the 2010 cohort of IELOL, I was surrounded by other leaders who were a lot like me. Of course, people were from all different walks and roles, but we shared a passion for online learning and how we could personally help move the field forward through thought leadership and formal leadership, regardless of where we were planted. To me, one of the interesting things about IELOL wasn’t that we were emerging leaders ourselves as much as the field of online leadership itself is an emerging and knowable phenomenon that we all can contribute to. We learn from one another which causes us to grow the field as we grow personally in our effectiveness as leaders.
Being part of the IELOL network has truly changed my career. I have made many new friends and colleagues across the different cohorts, and we interact with each other regularly on projects, job searches, and sometimes just the daily struggles we may face. Having a trusting network of like-minded people is an essential part of my leadership toolkit.
This helped me further bloom where I was planted, and as I outgrew each pot I was planted in, I took these lessons with me. It all started with a little encouragement to intentionally take the next steps to grow my leadership skills, regardless of my formal title or role.