Finding the Authentic Leader in You: Owning your Skills to Inspire, Engage, and Motivate the People Around You

Concurrent Session 2

Brief Abstract

Whether you’re in a formal leadership role or you’re leading from where you are, being authentic is a requirement for success. Learn to value your strengths and find your flow in order to cultivate successful relationships. Join us for a lively discussion to unlock your authentic leadership potential.


Megan Kohler is a Learning Designer with the John A. Dutton e-Education Institute at Penn State. She has presented at international conferences, such as Open Ed 2010 in Barcelona, Spain, the International Conference on Arts and Humanities in Honolulu, Hawaii, and the Online Learning Consortium in Orlando, Florida. Megan relies on her training and experience as a professional actor to create a fun and engaging experience within her presentations and design work. Among her professional accomplishments, she is recognized for her work as the lead instructional designer and project manager on Penn State’s highly-rated Epidemics MOOC. She conceptualized the MOOCs by Design Webinar series and served as the pedagogical lead for the Penn State Digital Badges Initiative. She continues to explore interesting opportunities focused on improving the online learning experience for higher education.
Doug Geier is the Director of eLearning and Instructional Design at Golden Gate University where he oversees LMS support, instructional design, help desk and proctored testing services. He also leads initiatives with GGU's Center for Teaching and Learning Excellence relating to academic technology, faculty development and pedagogical challenges. He was a 2012 participant in the Online Learning Consortium’s Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning and is an active member of the OLC community. Doug also serves on the Substantive Change peer review committee with the WASC Senior College and University Commission. In previous roles, Doug has held positions in educational software publishing and online learning as a producer, content developer, and instructional designer. GGU is a private, non-profit university located in San Francisco, California that offers undergraduate and graduate programs in business and management, taxation, and law. Many programs are offered both in-person and entirely online.
Dr. Andrew Shean is the Chief Academic Officer at NUS Online at National University System. Previously, Dr. Andrew Shean was the Chief Academic Learning Officer for Bridgepoint Education, where he led the development of new program design, the strategic direction for products, curriculum operations, instructional design, library, tutoring, and the writing center. Dr. Shean was the Vice Provost of Curriculum and Innovation at Ashford University, where he was responsible for providing leadership, supervision, and direction for all academic and educational affairs of the university and related programs. Prior to assuming the position of Vice Provost, Dr. Shean was the Executive Dean of Ashford’s College of Education. In 2014, Dr. Shean was selected to be one of six faculty to lead the Institute for Engaged Leadership in Online Education through Penn State World Campus in partnership with Online Learning Consortium. This program is intended for a selective group of emerging leaders from online institutions. In 2017, Dr. Shean was selected as a Chief Academic Officer Digital Fellow, funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation along with 31 other CAO's from across the country. In the earlier stages of his career, Dr. Shean helped lead the Poway Unified School District’s initiative to develop online and 1-1 education programs. He also served as a high school English teacher where he was named the 2009 District Teacher of the Year. Dr. Shean serves on multiple non-profit boards, dissertation committees, is sought out to give keynotes, and is highly involved in academic research. Dr. Shean earned his Doctorate of Educational Leadership and Management degree from Alliant International University. He holds an MA in Education and a BA in Sociology from the University of Northern Colorado.

Extended Abstract

One of the greatest challenges we can face in life is learning to be our authentic selves. Societal pressures, workplace expectations, and limited opportunities to advance can leave us feeling like we need to wear a professional mask just to make it through each day. But when we are not our true selves, our ability to cultivate dynamic, trusting, and impactful relationships is stymied. If we cannot establish relationships with a high degree of trust, we cannot achieve anything. And yet relationships require us to be both professional and authentic. How does one balance these somewhat discordant qualities?

As with any type of personal growth or development, it starts from within. Learning about your strengths and how they can best serve you is paramount to your leadership journey. Unfortunately, we spend a lot of time comparing ourselves to others and feeling like we need to one-up each other just to feel like we’re good enough. This erodes our relationships, leads to trust issues, and ultimately, a breakdown in the ability to function effectively as collaborators or teams. Learning about your strengths and knowing how and when to apply them is the best way to ensure successful collaborations. But, what is the best way to identify your strengths? How can you really know your strengths from your perceived strengths? When should you hold back in order to let someone else who has similar strengths shine? How can you use your strengths to inspire your collaborators?

Once you know what your strengths are and how they can best serve you, discovering your state of flow should be the next step. Finding your flow as an authentic leader is critical. It allows you to speak, act, and work with confidence. When working in your flow state, your colleagues will be able to see your skills and will respect and value your contributions to the team. How do you find your flow state? How do you manage stressful or challenging situations to avoid disruptions to your state of flow? How do you recover from disruptions, while still being professional and authentic?

Being an authentic leader is more than just focusing on yourself and your own abilities. Authenticity is about being true to who you are while allowing others to do the same. It can be easy to think there is a winner and a loser, but with that mindset, everyone ends up losing. It creates an adversarial environment which ultimately leads to a complete breakdown in the ability to function as collaborators. When this happens, people become disengaged, conflicts arise more frequently, and overall productivity rapidly declines. Authentic leaders know that good relationships are the key to real success and they actively take steps to ensure everyone feels valued, inspired, and motivated. How do you handle situations in which a collaborator turns competitive? How do you handle situations in which a collaborator does not pull his or her own weight? How do you motivate a collaborator who does not contribute in a timely manner?  How can you inspire and engage your colleagues to allow everyone to be successful both as individuals and as a team?


Level of Participation:

This gamified session begins with the contestants introducing their thoughts on authentic leadership. Following this brief introduction, attendees will use slido to either upvote the questions posed in the description above or add new questions. The panelists will then compete to provide the best answer to the questions in under two minutes. Attendees will award points for the best answer provided by the panelists. Prizes will be awarded at the end of the game.


Session Goals:

Individuals attending this panel discussion will be able to discuss several strategies for identifying their strengths and knowing how to apply them to ensure successful collaborations. They will be able to describe the best strategies for finding their flow state to inspire and motivate their collaborators. And lastly, they will be able to list ways authenticity can help foster collaborative environments in which everyone feels valued and engaged.