Strengthening The Nucleus of the Online Learning Executive Team: Transversal Leadership

Concurrent Session 8

Brief Abstract

This qualitative study explores existing connections between Transversal Leadership and Executive Leadership within the global online learning higher education industry and intends to advance the context of Transversal Leadership as an under-researched leadership development process.


Andrew Afton Lawrence is completing his doctoral dissertation in Global Leadership and Organizational Management at Indiana Tech. He holds a MA in Teaching and Learning with Technology from Ashford University and a BA in Humanities with a Specialization in English from Bluefield State College. He is an experienced online faculty member and administrator. In 2013, he was named an Elliott Masie 30 Under Thirty @ Learning honored guest, session leader, and main-stage presenter for a team Pecha Kucha titled "Where is Learning Going?". He was asked to return in 2014 as a 30 Under Thirty @ Learning Mentor. In 2019, he was selected as an emerging scholar for the International Leadership Association’s Emerging Research Scholar Consortium for his research titled “The Strong Forces of Transformational Leadership and the Courageous Executive”. Andrew Afton Lawrence's network of professional communities includes the American College of Corporate Directors (ACCD), the American Marketing Association (AMA), the Bluefield Chamber of Commerce's Youth Leadership Program, the International Leadership Association (ILA), the National Association of Sales Professionals (NASP), the Online Learning Consortium (OLC), the University Professional and Continuing Education Association (UPCEA), and the Virginia Council for State Authorization and Reciprocity.

Extended Abstract



Transversal Learning is built upon a relational process like that of a business-to-business exchange process between organizations (Lambe, Spekman, and Hunt, 1999). Business exchanges that are more commonly considered to be transactional by Bernard Bass (2008), a formative theorist and researcher on leadership, are improved in a simultaneous interexchange between people where the reward is the development of new skills and the cost is advantage among peers (White, Martin, & Adamson, 2007). It is important to designate the difference in transversal skills, competencies, and the learning process. Transversal skills are those considered to be widely applicable to work within or outside of a position of responsibility (Transferable Skills, 2013). Transversal Competencies can be measured within a sphere of six domains made-up of:

1) critical and innovative thinking, 2) interpersonal skills, 3) intrapersonal skills, 4) global citizenship, 5) media and information literacy, and 6) others. The domain ‘others’ was created as a way for researchers to include competencies, such as physical health or religious values, that may not fall into one of the other. (Transversal Skills, 2013).

The transversal learning process is related to these skills and competencies; however, the development of skills to improve these competencies is not considered the transversal learning process. Kaarina Marjanen and Markuz Cslovjeckek (2013; 2014) present transversal learning as an approach to teaching student’s multiple curriculum subjects in a single class session. Marjanen and Cslovjeckek measured the transferring of music and language skills in secondary education. While the process was used to educate students in a single classroom, the research is more concerned with developing new learning patterns between the two subjects rather than just the assessment of meeting course objectives, giving another dimension to transversal learning as a process rather than an explanation or definition of a type of skill or competency.

Transversal Learning takes on an entirely new form when built within the context of leadership. Transversal Leadership is a mutual and simultaneous development process where everyone is considered a leader and follower (Paquet, personal communication, 2017; Paquet, 2013). When referring to the Executive Management Team the results of applying Transversal Leadership is a non-traditional executive development process. There is little to no research that shows the connection between Transversal Skills, Transversal Leadership, and Executive Leadership. This research intends to further the definition of applied Transversal Leadership by connecting it to skills represented by executive leadership in the global online learning higher education industry.

Methodology and Data Collection

            Executive leaders participate in development that is focused on strengthening the team as the nucleus of the organizations around the organizational mission. Executive profile studies in the 1980s present certain responsibilities and skills required to manage and lead at the top of the organization hierarchy. Looking specifically at executives in higher education organizations who enroll ¾ or more students in 100% online learning programs as a classification provides an opportunity to measure the change in executives’ skills in an industry that has developed drastically over the course of 20-30 years. Document analysis will be used to complete the preliminary analysis of skills and to better understand the current profile of an online learning executive leader. Next, a focus group will be formed to explain and engage in a guided discussion on the ideas of Transversal Leadership as a form of executive development. Key findings of the current position profile of an executive leader in a higher education institution of online learning will be included in the discussion. The results of the focus group will be analyzed and presented to formulate a definition of Transversal Leadership for online education executives.

Results and Discussion

WORK IN PROGRESS                                


Bass, B. (2008). The bass handbook of leadership: Theory, research, and managerial applications (4th ed.). New York, NY: Free Press.

Lambe, C., Spekman, R., and Hunt, S. (1999). Interimistic relational exchange: conceptualization and propositional development. Retrieved from:

Marjanen, K., & Cslovjecsek, M. (2013). Transversal processes - learning more about the teaching profession through music. The European Journal of Social & Behavioural Sciences, 7 (4), 1234-1243. Retrieved from:

Marjanen, K., & Cslovjecsek, M. (2014). Transversal learning through music in the teaching profession. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Science, 112, 1046-1055. Retrieved from: https://

Paquet, G. (2013) Governance as a mythbuster. Optimum Online: Critical Governance Studies. (March 2013). Retrieved from:

Transferable Skills. (2013). In IBE Glossary of Curriculum Terminology online. UNESCO International Bureau of Education. Retrieved from:

White, J., Martin, T., & Adamson, K. (2007). The social exchange and rational choice framework. In Family Theories. Thousands Oak, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc. Retreived from: