Category Archives: EDL 820

Leadership Part 2 – Quotes that Resonated with Me.


Leadership, more or less? (Tourish, D. (2014))

"Leadership is less one person doing something to another (wih their more or less willing compliance).  Rather, it is a process whereby leaders and non-leaders accomplish each other through dynamics of interaction in which mutual influence is always present".

The team that I manage is very experienced and good at what they do.  In fact, most days I find I am learning new things from them rather than the traditional view that a leader should be the all-knowing master of all skills.  This quote resonates with me because it sheds light on the concept that there are two parts to the leadership equation.  

As an instructor, I was hired as a subject matter expert who could transfer my knowledge to my students with their compliance.  This is a more traditional role of leadership in the classroom.  I have been trying to find ways to increase learning opportunities and leverage the knowledge of the class by facilitating and guiding rather than traditional instruction.  It has been met with some resistance from some students who are typically older and not familiar with this "flipped" classroom approach.  


Critical and alternative approaches to leadership learning and development 

"One area that is being developed as an alternative view and that better appreciates context as well as emotions of becoming and being a leader is the move towards aesthetic and artistic methods of management and leadership learning"

 I was reminded of the work of Brene Brown when I read this article.  If you are not familiar with her work her writing is direct, no-nosense and can be applied in all areas of life.  In her book, Dare to Lead  she provider her thoughts and research on what an effective leader is.  And she challenges our traditional views and asks what we need to be doing now when “we’re faced with seemingly intractable challenges and an insatiable demand for innovation.” Truly daring leaders, she explains, are prepared to be vulnerable and listen without interrupting. They have empathy, connecting to emotions that underpin an experience, not just to the experience itself. They have self-awareness and self-love, because who we are is how we lead.” 

Her book explores the characteristics of brave leaders who are not afraid to demonstrate empathy, genuineness, corage, fear, shame and vulnerability.

If you haven't read this book yet, I encourage you to.  I really liked the behavioural insights that I think leaders should know about and practice.  It is something I am working on everyday...


Avoiding Repetitive Change Syndrome

"Repetitive change syndrome harms a company’s capacity to make further changes. That is, for every change initiative added, another one slows down or disappears".  

Eric Abrahamson

I love trying new things, finding new ways and approaches to try to continually improve our way of working.  However, I realize not everyone likes or reacts to change well.  This has been made more aparent during the past 19 months as we navigate living in a "new normal".  Recently, one of my team told me that they needed more structure, more clarity in our process than I have been encouraging.  "Maybe don't try to reinvent the wheel" was the advice offered.  And you know what?  I recognize that I could be more willing to work with tried and tested methods rather than finding new ways or tools to help.  I find that if I take the time to think about the problem, it can really help rather than react by implementing new changed ways to respond to the issue.


The Stupidity Paradox: The power and pitfalls of functional stupidity at work.


Like many others, I watched alot of television during the past year.  A highlight was re-watching all seasons of The Office, and as I read the article  by Alvesson & Spicer, many of the episodes would come to mind and bring the points to life for me.  Did that happen to you too?
"Functional stupidity is so widespread in most organisations that it is simply seen as normal."

The fictional character Michael Scott  seemed more interested in being seen as a the world's best boss.  He tried to hard to be popular and would bribe his staff with parties, liquor and more...

My takeaway is that I don't want to be "that boss" more concerned about being liked or the perception of doing the right things, than actually asking hard questions and engaging in tough conversations.  This is the least favourite part of my job as being a manager, but it is likely one of the most important aspects I need to do more of.


Cross Cultural Understandings of Leadership 

This article was intriguing for me to read.  I want to deepen my understanding and knowledge about other cultures, and had not thought about how I could apply this to the concepts of leadership.

The Six Leadership Themes in the article were interesting to learn more about.  

"Native Americans spoke of a different kind of leadership.  It was a leadership that is decentralized.  Every person has a role to play.  Each person's role is imporant to the whole.  No other person can make the exact same contribution.  The total contribution is an organic whole that can only be understood over life cycles."
As my team heads into another realignment/reorganization this fall, I would like to use this concept to help us organize and define ourselves.  I like how it places value on each individual and allows them to contribute in meaningful ways.  We have traditionally been defined in a more hierachiel structure, but I hope to incoporate this more wholistic and equal view. 


In Summary,

These readings are a good reminder to look beyond leadership resources that preach best practices or best in class advice on how to be the best leader.  Draw of different cultures, examples of failure and what to avoid as I build my personal leadership philosophy.  

I'll end with a quote that I like from one of my favourite authors in the marketing world, 





Current Leadership Style

 

This year I completed a Foundational Leadership Program offered through the City of Calgary and the University of Calgary.   This provided me the opportunity to learn more about leadership and define my leadership style.

At the beginning of the course, we completed an in-depth assessment of our personal strengths and development areas by Lumina Spark. This assessment tool is based on four principles that help bring awareness of areas of strength and how to build upon my challenges to build effective relationships and my leadership skills.

This tool is based on the Relationship/Transformational Theory in our course readings.    The Lumina Spark tool focuses on four key principles that when mastered, helps us "become truly transformational leaders capable of taking those we work with to higher levels of performance". (Lumina Spark, Personalized Portrait Workbook 2021)




1. Self Knowledge

2. Building Rapport

3. Valuing Diversity

4. Co-Creating Results 





My completed assessment highlighted that I really enjoy working collaboratively with others.  I relish opportunities to provide support to people and see them flourish.  My colleagues  can experience this as being very empowering; I am supportive of their goals and try not to interfere with their autonomy.   Working this way helps me stay connected and helps build trust and connection with my team.

During my career I have worked with many different styles of leaders, and as I read the course materials I could visualize examples - both good and bad of how these leadership approaches affected me.  One positive example that stood out for me was the first job I had after completing my undergraduate studies.  I moved to Calgary from Edmonton for the job, I didn't know anyone, and I was new to the tourism industry.  The General Manager of the organization took me under his wing, introduced me to many people within the community and provided me opportunities to contribute, and learn from him.  My biggest takeaway was the power of relationships.  He was masterful at being a connector of people, no matter the background or position, he could make anyone feel valued and appreciated.  He was a community builder and people loved to be around him. I am so grateful he invested his time in mentoring me until he passed away 2 years ago.  If you are interested in learning more about my mentor, this video highlights who he was and his leadership impact on our community


The leadership approaches that interest me the most from our readings this week are:

Participative Theory - A manager who uses participative leadership, rather than making all the decisions, seeks to involve other people, thus improving commitment and increasing collaboration, which leads to better quality decisions and a more successful business (Lamb, 2013).  This is the approach that most resonated with my current leadership role.

Democratic/Participative Leadership Style
As my organization is going through a realignment, how can I involve my team in the decision making so that they are active and feel like they are a part of the larger picture.  Sometimes, decisions have to be made as a leader, but I have found that generally I get better "buy in" when everyone feels they have been listened to and contributed to the final decision.

Creative Leadership Style 
"Leadership looks at the horizon and not just the bottom-line"  The concepts presented from Bennis about creating a compelling vision, meaning, healthy and empowering environment and success through a non bureaucratic system was intriguing and new to me.









EDL 820 Blog: Unit Two (Disruptive Leadership)

Unit Two: Disruptive Leadership (January 23, 2019)

  1. Read the summary below of the 5C’s leadership Approach.
  2. Read the 5 required readings. You do not have to read these articles in depth. Just skim through them to get a sense of the main argument in each, and to find a quote that resonates with you personally. Doing this will prepare you for the blog postings to follow. 
  3. Go to the Course Blog, and post:
  4. a quote from each article that resonates with you, along with a brief explanation of its impact on your evolving leadership philosophy, including ways that these readings disrupted any impressions formed by the leadership review excerpt I provided for you in the previous session.
    • post a thoughtful, responsive comment to at least two classmates’ blogs.

Quote #1 (Page 6)

“Transformational leadership theory, in particular, stresses how charismatic leaders can inspire, intellectually stimulate and radically reorder the values and actions of others (Van Knippenberg and Sitkin, 2013). Such leaders act on others rather than alongside them. They decide on a vision and then align followers’ mind-sets with goals that are consistent with the vision (Hartnell and Walumba, 2011). It is an approach that has long been criticised for seeing organisational influence in uni-directional terms (that is, flowing from leaders to more or less compliant followers), advocating the achievement of corporate cohesion and a monocultural environment to the detriment of internal dissent, and exaggerating the role of charismatic visionaries in the achievement of corporate goals (Tourish and Pinnington, 2002; Tourish et al, 2010).”

This quote resonates with me as I had previously blogged about my struggle with the charismatic leadership style.  Seeing organizational influence in uni-directional terms contradicts what many of the leadership styles seem to favour, input from all parties involved in a decision.  I have known leaders charismatic enough to sway me to do something that I would otherwise not consider doing.  This can be either a good or bad thing.  Regardless of the outcome, a strict a one-way relationship between leaders and followers is one that I feel can’t have long-term success.  Long-term success comes from a workforce that feels empowered and has a certain level of autonomy and therefore has a higher level of job satisfaction.  Therefore I believe that a more democratic leadership style would be preferable.

Quote # 2. (Page 7)

“In conducting videoed interviews with 20 MBA students (10 female and 10 male), representing a range of ethnicities and nationalities, two key themes emerged. The students (a) made judgements on the industry-appropriateness of the women’s appearance and (b) a majority of students commented on the relationship between sexual attractiveness and women’s professionalism, alluding to what they regarded as the opposition between sexual attraction and being a professional woman. For these MBA students, to become, and to be seen, as a businesswoman therefore requires future women leaders to scrutinise what is deemed appropriate according to their industry and to not appear too glamorous or sexy!” 

It’s interesting that in the #MeToo era that we see so much focus put on a woman’s appearance.  We are upholding power structures that have been in place for generations, power structures that typically are to the benefit of the straight white male.  It’s interesting that MBA students, that you might anticipate to be more liberal-thinking, still see a woman’s sexuality and professionalism as two things that are in opposition.  As someone who may have a baby daughter next month, I hope that she grows up in a society that puts more value on her skills and abilities than what she looks like.  From a leadership perspective, I plan to work my hardest to disrupt these power structures.

Quote # 3 (Page 2)

“The first symptom, initiative overload, manifests itself when organizations launch more change initiatives than anyone could ever reasonably handle. At a large U.S. pharmaceutical firm, a team of midlevel executives had spent three days working on a new change initiative when one executive admitted that the team was not ready to take the exercise seriously. Although the team members believed that the initiative was vital, they felt it had little chance of making a difference. Many change initiatives at the firm, once started, had not been completed; they were dropped midway when yet another new “superb initiative” was launched. Moreover, so many initiatives were already in progress, and the executives were already so overworked, that launching a new one would only cut further into the precious time they had left to run routine operations and to serve their customers.”

Yes, I’m picking a quote about being overworked.  I’ve commented a couple of times now on these class blogs about teacher work time intensification.  It change happens, it should have good rationale behind it, because there are only so many hours in a day and, as most teachers will tell you, they already have enough on their plates as it is.  Sometimes it seems educational change goes in cycles.  Particularly for more veteran staff members, when they hear of a new initiative, you’ll hear one or two “We tried this fifteen years ago” comments in the staff room.  If a change is seen as something that won’t make a difference, or if there are past initiatives that have yet to be completed, it is hard to take initiatives seriously.  As a leader, effective communication is key is communicating what changes must happen, and why they must happen.

Quote #4 (Page 9)

“A second aspect of stupidity is not seeking cause or a good reason. People stop asking ‘why’ at work. They do not ask for, or offer, reasons for their decisions and actions. A rule is a rule and it must be followed, even if no one is clear why it exists.”

I find myself asking “why” a lot more lately with my new role as education leader.  It’s not that I’m trying to be disrespectful, and I don’t think that anyone interprets it that way.  I just want to know the rationale behind some of the things that are done school-wide or department-wife.  It gives me a better understanding and that understanding helps me in relaying information to the rest of the department.  I am learning a lot and am enjoying the role so far.  I imagine most of the education leaders were asking “why” questions often during their first year in the role, as well.  If I do decide to go into administration, I hope to be as open to “why” questions as my administrators have been.

Quote #5 (Page 6)

screenshot

I really enjoyed this quote about decentralized leadership.  Particularly in a school setting, with so many staff and students with a variety of strengths.  There are so many talents and skills to draw on.  I like the lack of hierarchy that this passage implies, and I like to think that schools operate in this kind of way often.  What is important here is that no person considers themselves as better than or less than anyone else.

EDL 820 Blog: Unit Two (Leadership Self-Reflection)

Unit Two: Leadership (January 22, 2019)

Prompt:

1. Discuss your own core personality as a foundation of your leadership style.
2. Describe one or two key life experiences that have helped to shape your approach to leadership.
3. Discuss at least three leadership approaches in the PDF that interest you.
4. Reply to at least 2 classmates’ blog postings that made you look at things in new ways and continue to engage with their ideas.

 

1. I’ve always been a pretty easy-going person.  As a teacher, I try my best to remain calm and to adapt to changing situations.  I’ve found that this style works particularly well working on the office as acting administrator.  I was acting administrator during a large power outage on December 5 of last year, and I believe that remaining calm, particularly in situations that could easily escalate emotions, is something that is an asset.  As a leader, I typically like to trust people and allow for us much individual autonomy as possible.  I have always had a strong work ethic, so I believe that leading by example is important.  Though I am easy-going, I also don’t like to beat around the bush.  Efficiency is important to me, and in leadership this means good communication and meetings that are run as efficiently as possible.  We are all aware of the intensification of teacher time, and meetings running efficiently is one way that some stress can be removed from a teacher’s day.

2. It’s a tricky thing to pick one or two life experiences that have shaped my approach to leadership.  Working currently as an education leader has certainly helped shape my approach.  The department that I currently work in is comprised of seventeen people.  The personality types involved are as varied as the subject area that they teach their students.  All but a few of the people in the department are older than I am.  I try my best help staff members with one of my strengths, technology integration, but I also rely heavily on the experience of other teachers in the department.  For the practical and applied arts teachers, this meant consulting with them to determine what would be an appropriate cell phone policy for PAA classrooms. PAA teachers decided that, primarily because of safety concerns, cell phone use should be completely banned.  In my technology courses, my biggest safety concerns are eye strain and carpal tunnel syndrome.  My students often use their own devices to record video and audio.  My experience as an education leader has shown me that while consistency is important, it can be difficult to paint everything with the same brush.  Much as my students can’t all be successful if I continue to employ the same teaching strategies and assessments, so too can the colleagues in my department not be successful unless I treat them as what they are- individuals with distinct strengths and weaknesses.

3. Of the leadership styles, these are the three that stood out to me.  They either interest me because I have personally seen them work or used them, or they interest me in that I’m amazed that people still use them.

Democratic/Participative Leadership Style— As previously stated, I believe in allowing team members to be a part of the decision-making process.  Back in university it was suggested that there is great value in allowing students to be a part of the process in coming up with rubric criteria or classroom rules of conduct.  It would thus make sense that in allowing adults to be a part of the process that they will be more likely to “buy in” when the final decision is made.  Development of employee skills is essential, and I would much rather work with people that have a high level of job satisfaction.  The main danger of this style, in my eyes, is a situation where efficiency, which I’ve mentioned prior in this post, is important.  In this case, an executive decision may be required to speed up the process.

Charismatic Leadership Style— As an introvert, this is a leadership style that I struggle with.  I’m not one for giving a rousing speech.  I prefer to work behind the scenes on things.  I have yet to come across a charismatic leader who believes he or she can do no wrong, but, like the article says, that could be a big weakness with this leadership style.

elliott phone

Leadership is more than just making phone calls.  (Photo: Michael Wolf)

Bureaucratic Leadership Style— This is a style that may work will in a PAA classroom during a lesson where safety is paramount, but it isn’t a very good leadership style.  I see this as a style that administrators could easily default to during difficult situations.  At the end of the day, school-based administrators need to answer to super intendants and parents, so guidelines must be followed.  Large budgets are also at play, so accountability is important.