The transformational leader who is passionate about distance learning has an opportunity to be a part of a societal change process. America and the global community are going through a paradigm shift in regards to public perception of distance learning. Alone, one person cannot initiate and coordinate a national or global societal change, but individually, a transformational leader can establish a vision, create a passion, and develop a leadership plan. As I reflect on my own personal leadership plan in the field of distance education, a three-step approach was taken. Self-reflection, honest feedback, and continual learning were the components that I used in designing my personal leadership plan.
Bennis, leadership author and guru, defined leadership as “the capacity to create a compelling vision and translate it into action and sustain it” (2003, p. 1). Leadership can be learned. If one has the desire to be a leader, one can be. "Like John Kotter, Prof Bennis believes leadership is not necessarily an inborn skill and can be taught ... through personal coaching rather than group training" (Bennis, 2003, p. 1). Throughout history leaders come to mind that were not born leaders, but learned it through their education, tenacity, and personal effort. "Abraham Lincoln, Harry S. Truman, Sam Walton of Wal-Mart, and Gen. Ulysses S. Grant" were not born into leadership, but had undying purpose and vision to achieve their goals (Mohr, 2000, p. 76).
With everything, there is a beginning; the vision, passion, and plan must begin somewhere. Blanchard (1999) asserted, “If you don’t take time out to think, strategize, and prioritize, you will work a whole lot harder, without enjoying the benefits of a job smartly done” (p. 25). Considering Blanchard’s words, anyone who desires to be a leader should outline a plan to outline a plan with specific goals. All one needs is the desire to be a leader. In fact, no less an authority than Peter Drucker (2001) has placed personal energy at the very forefront of leadership qualities: "Your first and foremost job as a leader is to raise your own energy level and then to help raise and orchestrate the energies of those around you” (Cooper, 2001, para. 1).
Personal Leadership Philosophy
“Leaders know themselves; they know what they can do well” (Bennis & Goldsmith, 2003, p. 81). The transformational leader who has completed self-reflection and assessed one’s strengths and weaknesses should next ask people for constructive feedback. Do not shy away from the good and bad feedback that you might receive. Avoiding the pain of receiving negative feedback does nothing for your growth. Be willing to look at your weakness with the potential to create behavioral changes. Nothing feels better than taking a misstep and turning this into a success.
Organizations are often hiring leadership coaches. Typically an organizational leadership coach may work with newly promoted managers to help them be successful. If one is not available within your organization, seek a professional leadership coach. "With the help of leadership coaches, leaders gain perspective on the familiar while encountering alternative ways to view self and one's role as a leader" (MacPherson, 2009, p. 46).
In terms of being an effective leader, one must seek out honest feedback. Seek a mentor. Kelling, Barling, and Helleur (2000) conducted extensive research on the effect of training and constructive feedback on leaders. "Results suggest that both training and feedback are effective means of changing leadership behaviors" (Kelling, Barling, & Helleur, 2000, p. 145). After reviewing several leadership coaching websites, the need for feedback to the leader was stressed. "Eight ways to get honest feedback", "Five proven tips to get honest feedback", and "Honest success" are examples of just a few of these websites. Bozeman and Feeney (2007) defined mentoring as...
...a process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development; mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protègè). (p. 719)
Think outside the box, challenge all assumptions, and continually seek new information. Reading new literature will not be enough, consider innovative changes that may be outside the norm of the organization. Daniel Pink has looked into the future and considered what it will take to make change happen. In his book, A Whole New Mind, Pink (2006) addressed six thought processes to generate innovative thinking. Pink(2006) incorporated both the left and right brain by mastering the six human abilities of design, story, symphony, empathy, play, and meaning. Using these natural abilities can get you continually learning, planning, and changing.
Fundamental to my personal leadership philosophy are self-reflection, asking people whom one works with for constructive feedback, and continually seeking new information (Bennis & Goldsmith, 2003, pp. 81-82). Eleanor Roosevelt once said, “No one can make you feel inferior without your permission” (Blanchard, 1999, p. 12). Struggling with low self-esteem or constant negativity can hinder effective leadership. Reevaluating the white water that exists in our world, challenge the false assumptions will enable you to overcome any self-doubt. Norman Vincent Peale believed that one can look at each day in two different ways. One’s day is either going to be good or bad, so why not look to the good there is in life and seek the positive (Blanchard, 1999). “As a leader, the most important earthly relationship you can cultivate is your relationship with yourself” (Blanchard, 1999, p. 152).
Rudy Giuliani, former mayor of New York City during the tragedy of September 11, 2001, proposed there were three critical stages of leadership. “First, you must develop beliefs. Next, you have to communicate them. Finally, you must take action” (Giuliani, p. 80). A plan will enable you to begin the journey to become a leader. Having a guide to mentor you along the way is crucial to your success. “Leadership is not something you do to people. It’s something you do with people” (Blanchard, 1999, p. 140).
Author: Andree C. Swanson, EdD
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