Make plans to attend the OLC Leadership Network Symposium and hear from Jen Wurch as well as other impactful leaders in online, blended, and digital learning as, together, we discuss and network around strategies for leading the future of learning.
As an IELOL alumni and advocate, I believe in the importance of emerging leaders defining their leadership philosophy and purpose, which often comes through intentional collaboration with seasoned leaders in the space. In my own journey to define my purpose, I have had leaders who helped me reflect on my beliefs, values, and experiences, discover my voice, and embrace my strengths while acknowledging and working to improve areas of opportunity. They have shown me how to lead with this purpose and build my own leadership capacity. In the rapidly evolving landscape of online education, effective leadership and collaboration play a pivotal role in creating learning environments in which students can thrive. As we work to transform and renew the online education space, it is critical to remain focused on purpose-driven leadership that keeps the learner front and center.
Building Leadership Capacity through Collaboration
Leadership expert Simon Sinek said in his TEDTalk “How Great Leaders Inspire Action” that leaders who inspire their teams consistently think, act, and communicate from the inside out. They know their ‘why’, which inspires their ‘how,’ which influences their ‘what’, and they encourage this thinking throughout their organization. As educators, in everything we do, we believe in transformative education and learner success. The way we transform education and ensure learner success is through collaboration on all levels, particularly between emerging and seasoned leaders. Through this collaboration, we encourage ideas and creativity to blossom, resulting in a transformative student experience that changes lives and redefines futures.
To build leadership capacity within an organization and influence learner success, collaboration between emerging and seasoned leaders must be a priority. In leaning into a shared purpose of creating meaningful and scalable learning opportunities for all learners, leaders must commit to a student-centered approach to online learning transformation by adhering to a ‘student first’ mentality. With this mentality in mind, emerging and seasoned leaders can work together to embrace change and innovation through the exploration of fresh and innovative ideas, as well as strategic perspectives based on knowledge and experience. The most influential leaders I’ve worked with have encouraged me to lean into my creativity and ability to problem solve, while simultaneously incorporating their experience and knowledge to the project to ensure all bases were covered.
Cultivating and Nurturing the Next Generation of Online Leaders
In this work to transform and renew the online education space to create an environment for students to thrive, we must ensure we are cultivating and nurturing the next generation of digital and online leaders. To do this, the partnership between emerging and seasoned leaders must be strong and maintain a shared purpose of student success! There are four ways to do this- through mentorship and coaching, encouraging open discussions, building a strong community of practice, and creating leadership succession plans.
Establishing a culture of mentorship and coaching where seasoned leaders can share their knowledge, offer guidance based on experience, and create an environment in which emerging leaders can develop their skill sets and make mistakes is the first step to cultivating and nurturing the next generation of online leaders. I’ve been fortunate to have leaders who let me “fail fast”- if something I worked on didn’t turn out as expected or yielded less-than-ideal results, I was given the opportunity to figure it out, regroup, and move on. Being allowed to ‘fail’ has given me the space to ultimately succeed! Receiving timely and constructive feedback from seasoned leaders can help emerging leaders define their leadership philosophy and purpose, which they can continue to hone over time. In other words, the partnership between these two leadership groups is defined by a commitment to continuous growth, improvement, and feedback.
The second way to cultivate and nurture the next generation of digital and online leaders is to encourage open discussions where both emerging and seasoned leaders can share their knowledge and ideas on how to create meaningful and scalable learning opportunities that will enhance the lives of learners. Purpose-driven leadership is built upon collaboration, and the sharing of knowledge and ideas ensures all voices are heard and respected. As ideas are shared and action plans take shape, emerging leaders can be entrusted with responsibilities and autonomy in decision-making, empowering them to take the lead and develop their leadership capacity. The confidence I gained from my first successful ‘big project’ in the online learning space gave me the courage to think bigger, dive deeper, and ultimately have a greater impact on our shared commitment to transformative learning.
Next, the collaboration between emerging and seasoned leaders also leads to a strong community of practice in which innovation and change in the online learning space can expand. Through collaboration with seasoned leaders, emerging leaders can build a strong network within the online learning ecosystem, allowing them to grow their connections and further influence the ideas and innovations that will transform student learning and success. My own leader introduced me to OLC, and since then my network has expanded exponentially. And guess what this network does? It works together to transform student lives through our shared purpose of transforming and renewing the online space!
Finally, nurturing the next generation of online and digital leaders must include a plan for the future. Developing leadership succession planning initiatives will ensure the long-term success of the organization and ongoing efforts to transform the online space for all learners. To lead with purpose in the long-run means planning for success now, and through collaboration with seasoned leaders, emerging leaders can define and hone their leadership philosophy and purpose. And, one day, they will have the chance to cultivate and nurture the next generation of online and digital leaders.
Sinek, S. (2010). How great leaders inspire action. Simon Sinek: How great leaders inspire action | TED Talk. https://www.ted.com/talks/simon_sinek_how_great_leaders_inspire_action?language=en