Unlocking Your Leadership Potential: Leading From Where You Are!


Florence Williams, Instructional Designer, DDL/Center for Distributed Learning, University of Central Florida | IELOL Global 2022 Alum

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Editorial Notes

  • OLC invites digital learning leaders to converge during two transformative days – December 5-6, 2024 – for the third annual Global Leadership Impact Summit. This fully online gathering aims to explore the tremendous power of global coalitions and partnerships in surmounting challenges to educational access. [LEARN MORE & REGISTER]
  • Applications for the 2024 Institute for Emerging Leadership in Online Learning (IELOL) are now being accepted. [LEARN MORE & APPLY]
  • More information and applications for the 2024 IELOL Global Core Program will be available soon.

Leadership positioning can emerge from competitive advantage but is often sustained through innovation and community engagement. There is a growing field of thought that unearth new leadership development methods and recognizes the importance of working with others to identify areas of collective resonance. Indeed, research suggests that leadership development transcends choosing a leadership theory and training people in related behaviors (Day et al, 2014; Hernez-Broome, & Hughes, 2004 ). A leadership development program that effectively supports growth and helps leaders to realize a social justice agenda in a community framework is needed in this world of cut and thrust where there are, seemingly, shrinking opportunities for moving ahead.

I invite you to think back to the childhood tale of a winning team with a leader who survived through participant buy-in, engagement and strategic leadership. They ran together yet apart, one ahead of the other, one with more stamina and strength due to biological endowment and speed. The other, plodding at his pace and inviting a network of support that led to a competitive edge. The winner was not, initially, the crowd’s favorite. The unexpected leader was first to the finish line due to creative thought and the help of a committed community. 

Are you already in training to be the leader that you might become? 

Are you resting on your laurels, asleep while the competition networks and leaves you lagging behind? 

The critical first step in your leadership journey could be to harness your potential and align it with opportunities in your personal and professional life. As an OLC community ally, you can succeed with upcoming leadership summits and other related offerings. These offerings that include leaders for across the educational spectrum are often the lodestones that pull leaders from an engaged international community. A community that centers innovation and flexibility, helping leaders to develop dormant leadership skills and advocacy positions by amplifying sustainable development goals and strategic initiatives. 

The beauty of these programs is that they help leaders to build their foundation of leadership and explore the evolutions of their leadership roles in a community atmosphere. There’s an old African proverb that says “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.” The OLC leadership development programs help leaders and aspiring leaders to align their work with their personal or institutional strategic plans. This requires the agility to go far while moving fast. This adage pairs well with the call for action towards a intentional partnership to change worldviews and engage collective consciousness about the challenges we face collectively and the creative solutions we can develop together. 

The description of the strategic leader comes to mind with the different roles they might hold that help to advance programs within the institution as well as the broader field worldwide (Schroeder, 2021). As we look at these diverse roles and opportunities, we reflect on our erstwhile leader from the earlier story. The winner has to identify his tribe, those individuals who allow him to win while remaining in the crowd, content in the knowledge that they contributed to his success. How does engagement in OLC leadership initiatives help with this process? During my leadership engagement, my group was paired with a facilitative mentor who listened and offered feedback as we developed self-awareness and identified the strengths and weaknesses of our individual leadership roles and how we might collaborate to amplify our advocacy positions. The mentoring process focused on building a strong foundation for leadership development and feedback processes based on evidence from the field (Day, 2011).

As a faculty instructional designer, I had several opportunities to lead administratively. Still, I did not consider it important to build a foundation of leadership until I engaged in an OLC Leadership event in Fall of 2022. In keeping with the ideas from Arnold (2022) on leadership in Higher Education, OLC leadership programs focus on cultural, pedagogical, ethical, relational, and environmental issues while advocating for change with an international community. Through my engagement I had several opportunities to build on a foundation of reflection. The team culture created in my engagement helped me develop effective communication channels within a group of colleagues from around the world. I feel especially supported in my leadership journey using an agile design project management approach of sprints and deliverables for each step of the process. The OLC continues to assist leaders and other practitioners with the resources we might use to set a compelling vision for our leadership development goals. We effectively moved from a consultative approach to practical implementation through these supportive channels. It was rewarding to see how our ideas could result in a strategic process that engenders change. 

As you plan your next leadership engagement, consider an OLC leadership event such as the upcoming Global Leadership Impact Summit, which can help you to streamline your management approach and identify strategies that you can use to leverage your process and amplify your advocacy position. Through these opportunities, leaders cultivate or develop a growth mindset for continuous improvement both nationally and internationally. The urgency to act is supported by trust and a positive approach to change management. The program I attended may have ended but the community continues. My team and I are continuing to work together as we share our stories and encourage others to do the same. 


Arnold, D. (2022). Supporting leadership development in European Universities: a mixed methods study of digital education leadership literacies for higher education.

Day, D. V. (2011). Leadership development. The SAGE Handbook of leadership, 22, 37-50.

Day, D. V., Fleenor, J. W., Atwater, L. E., Sturm, R. E., & McKee, R. A. (2014). Advances in leader and leadership development: A review of 25 years of research and theory. The leadership quarterly, 25(1), 63-82.

Hernez-Broome, G., & Hughes, R. J. (2004). Leadership development: Past, present, and future. Human resource planning, 27(1).

Schroeder, R. (2021). Leadership for Online Learning. In A Guide to Administering Distance Learning (pp. 20-42). Brill.

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