July 6, 2020
Recently, I’ve been reading Maxwell’s (2019) Leadershift: The 11 essential changes every leader must embrace. While many of the shifts discussed aligned with my previous experiences, there were many Aha! moments as well. In this post, I discuss my three greatest takeaways from the reading.
Focusing on Your Team
As a leader, your goal is to bring out the best in others and help them reach their full potential. Being a leader is more about your team than you. As Maxwell (2019) describes, “You just might become the leader someone remembers for encouraging them to greatness” (p. 36). Leaders with this ability have a completing mindset, meaning the leader “practices shared thinking and includes others” (p. 36). Leaders who put followers first focus on the giving side of leadership by adding value to positively improve the community (Maxwell, 2019). Encouraging, giving kudos, and allowing others to shine is also associated with this focus.
Leaders also help build ladders for their followers to join them at the top, rather than standing alone. These ladders are built “on a firm foundation of integrity and strong character” (Maxwell, 2019, p. 132). Additionally, leaders take many moments to self-reflect upon their decisions and are upfront and honest with their followers when there is an issue or a change. Having this ability grows respect within the team, a safe environment, and consistency/follow-through in which the followers can depend.
One of my favorite parts of being a leader is having the ability to empower and inspire others. I had similar experiences as a teacher when a student would finally understand a concept that they did not understand. I loved seeing the student accomplish goals they never thought possible. I truly believe this is the cause and drive behind my career and passion. As an online learning professional, I want all students to reach their full potential and experience good teaching and learning.
As a problem solver, I often struggle with how to support versus problem-fix. However, I recognize that I don’t have all the answers and need a team to help me problem solve and move the issue forward. It is essential to discuss possible solutions with all stakeholders involved. This is especially important because they will know their audience better than me.
Expand Your Network
Diversifying and expanding your network leads to learning. In Maxwell’s (2019) experiences, expanding his network allowed for his assumptions to be challenged, removed his prejudices, changed his thinking, and made him a better person (p.172). It is essential to expand your network to include people with different viewpoints and then prepare to have open conversations. Extending this idea, creating a team with different values, perspectives, and backgrounds and encouraging all members to collaboratively share their expertise and take part in open conversations is essential. When people on a team are not given the opportunity to share their own thoughts and feel as if they belong, they will disconnect.
Diversity can be scary and uncomfortable. Diverse conversations can lead to healthy conflicts. Healthy conflicts are described as seeking understanding, searching for resolutions, valuing solutions above self, and making the team better (Maxwell, 2019, p. 178). In order to have healthy conflict, all involved must be open to new ideas and perspectives. Expanding diverse teams requires strong leadership. However, we need to use our differences to find common ground and make the world a better place.
In self-reflecting this summer, I realized that I had not been focusing on multicultural impacts in my growth. Instead, many of the people in my circle look like me, act like me, and have the same beliefs as me. This does not help me learn how to get along with others, discuss/debate respectfully, nor does it help broaden my perspective. As a leader, it is essential to understand that each person’s perspectives stem from their own background and experiences – meaning their culture has an impact on this. Without understanding their culture, you may write off their opinion without considering why they think the way they do.
As an instructional designer, I must investigate what learning looks like in different cultures and apply that to online learning. I plan on using the remaining summer to read books such as Bender’s (2012), Discussion-based online teaching to enhance student learning: Theory, practice and assessment, and Jung, I., & Gunawardena, C. N. (Eds.). (2014). Culture and online learning : Global perspectives and research. Additionally, I hope to expand my network through LinkedIn and Twitter and host monthly online learning meetings to discuss hot topics in education, new perspectives, and investigate how learning looks in different countries and cultures.
“A leadership position does not give someone leadership authority” (Maxwell, 2019, p. 195). Instead, the morals and actions of a leader must align, creating respect and trust in you as a leader. Having moral authority requires a leader to be brave and courageous. A leader must have the courage to admit when you don’t know the answer and ask for help. Additionally, a leader may have to stand alone against society or higher leaders for the good of the team. This is called transformational leadership (Maxwell 2019; Northouse & Lee, 2019). Transformational leaders speak up even when it is scary. They focus on changing themselves, being adaptable, and having a growth mindset.
As a leader, you must be willing to live in the gray. Leadership comes with a lot of uncertainty – leaders attempt to make decisions based on their own personal experiences and outlooks, without truly knowing the future. This means having the ability to “learn, unlearn, and relearn (Maxwell, 2019, p.10). What worked last year, may not work today, and probably won’t work in the future.
Finally, to be brave leaders must encourage learning through failure. No one is perfect and will make mistakes. The greatest lessons and creativity come from failing first to find out what works and doesn’t work, then utlizing these lessons to self-reflect. Success stems from small consistent wins. Be consistent and you will slowly see success.
Encouraging failure in a small team is much more manageable than an entire systemic change at an institution. In my own practice, it is essential to reframe failures into challenges. During each course development, the faculty members and I can reflect upon both successes and challenges and use those challenges for growth. Following this process, we can hone in our final intervention and get the best possible outcome.
Bender, T. (2012). Discussion-based online teaching to enhance student learning:Theory, practice and assessment (2nd ed). Stylus Publishing, LLC. ISBN: 9781579227470
Jung, I., & Gunawardena, C. N. (Eds.). (2014). Culture and online learning : Global perspectives and research. Stylus Publishing, LLC. ISBN: 9781579228552
Maxwell, J.C. (2019). Leadershift: The 11 essential changes every leader must embrace. Harper Collins.
Northouse, P. G. & Lee, M. (2019). Leadership case studies in education. 2nd edition. SAGE.