Digital Leadership: Humanizing How We Communicate, Teach and Lead Online

Brief Abstract

Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, the definition and enactment of leadership were changing. With digital communication tools, higher ed leaders are tasked not only to strategize what, where, and when to post but creating authentic and genuine connections with their campus communities. 

Using research over the last ten years from faculty, administrators, and campus executives, this keynote teaches how to apply a strategic and values-based approach to leveraging social media. The framework for digital leadership is not just for improving your personal brand, but a humanizing way to reach students, support staff, celebrate faculty, and more. This session will show how actual higher ed leaders are integrating tools like social media using the guiding principles of digital leadership, including personalization, change, connection, strategy, and legacy.

This session is available only to registered attendees of the Leadership Network Symposium.  


Dr. Josie Ahlquist has trained thousands of professionals and students around the globe on how to thrive online and in life. As a speaker, researcher and author on digital leadership she takes a personal approach to transform how we view technology through the lens of empathy and empowerment that will result in stronger companies, communities, schools and future leaders. Josie received her EdD from California Lutheran University doctoral program, studying higher education leadership. She is an alumna of Northern Arizona University with a Masters’s degree in Counseling and holds undergraduate degrees from South Dakota State University, where she double-majored in Sociology and Human Development and Family Studies. Josie’s research is grant-funded and award-winning. Her dissertation was on college student leaders and their behaviors and experiences with social media. Utilizing a mixed methodology she sought out an understanding and definition of digital student leadership and produced six pillars of digital student leadership education. She also conducted a study on Student Affairs Senior Level Administrators who are high users of social media, which produced a Digital Leadership Framework and Digital Decision Making Model in Higher Ed. Dr. Ahlquist maintains an active research agenda, currently undertaking three separate research projects with colleagues around the globe and holds a research associate position with Florida State University. She is very attuned to the landscape of higher education and is passionate about developing the leadership capacity of college students, as well as administrators. She brings over a decade of experience in the field of higher education in areas such as student activities, campus recreation, student unions, marketing, residence life, judicial affairs, student leadership, and new student orientation. Dr. Ahlquist currently serves as a research associate and leadership instructor with Florida State University teaching undergraduate, master and doctoral level courses. As an international leadership speaker, Josie has trained thousands of students and education professionals. Her vision is to provide a digital remix on how to empower leaders of the 21st century. Her presentations balance between education and entertainment, using high energy and interaction along with learning outcomes and attendee reflection. She has spoken to a variety of campuses around the world including Thompson Rivers University, Occidental College, Wittenburg University, Fresno State University, Indiana University Southeast, New York University Abu Dhabi and Rollins College. For the fourth year in a row, she has been named to the 'Top 50 Must–Read Higher Education Technology Blogs' by Ed Tech Magazine. Her podcast, Josie & The Podcast was featured by The Chronicle of Higher Ed as a podcast to subscribe to. You can find her blogging and podcasting at As a writer, she is a co–author in the Handbook of Student Affairs Administration textbook, writing the chapter on Computer–Mediated Communication and Social Media. She is also published in The Journal of Leadership Studies, in a thought piece called Trending Now: Digital Leadership Education using Social Media and the Social Change Model. She is also a co–editor and author in the New Directions in Student Services volume, 'Engaging the Digital Generation,' as well as co–editor and author in the recently published New Directions in Student Leadership, 'Going Digital in Student Leadership.' Her new book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World was listed as an Amazon #1 new release for college and university student life.

Extended Abstract