take me...

I have been thinking a lot about leadership lately.

Perhaps it is because our Director has recently moved on to another position with another organization and I (as well as the other manager in my unit) have been called upon to backfill that role. Consequently, in the past 2 months I have found myself working at a higher level in the organization than normal, sitting at the table with our senior academic leadership team & getting a firsthand view of academic leadership.

I am also fortunate to be in the enviable position of being on the hiring committee to hire a new Director for our centre (how nice to be able to have a say in who your new boss will be) and so I have been able to not only witness a number of potential leaders articulate what their vision for our unit might be, but also get a sense of what leadership qualities the other institutional leaders on the hiring committee value.

Because of these two things, I have been thinking about my own leadership role and trying to unravel the complex feelings I have about being a “leader”. I am realizing more and more that there are people that are expecting this of me and my unit. Heh. Only took me a year and a half to figure that out. Yeah, a bit slow on the uptake sometimes. There’s a good leadership quality.

Those quotes around the word leader in the above paragraph aren’t modesty. I genuinely find the thought of being a leader uncomfortable. Leaders are the ones up there at the front of the room. I am not a stand in front of the room kinda guy. Those who have met me in a f2f context would probably say I am the quiet fly-under-the-radar guy sitting over there in the corner.

There is a reason I used to work in radio. I wasn’t very good at it. I got better and could have probably forged a decent career if I had the desire to continue, but it never felt natural. It always felt like I was working against something inside me. But I took a lot away from that career that has served me well to this day. If it wasn’t for working in a  highly social and public forum like broadcasting that forced me out of my shell and into the spotlight, I would probably be this Ted Kazynski-ish hermit shunning humanity and living off the grid in some cabin in the woods. Minus the crazy. Maybe.

I am the quiet one because I often struggle to do one of the things that I think a leader has to do to be a good leader – articulate a vision of what the future could look like, and then convince people to come along for the ride. It takes a level of salesmanship to sell your ideas in a room full of people.

It’s not that I don’t have a vision. I do. I just have a hard time clearly expressing what that vision is. I struggle. I lack the salesmanship. Which is probably why I have always gravitated to writing. I joke that I am an asynchronous guy living in a synchronous world, and I find it much easier to express things in writing than I do in a highly interactive social situation. But standing in front of a room and selling your idea is something a good leader does.  I am sure the expression “take a stand” emerged out of being the one who stands out and passionately illuminates a different way.

I admire those people and seek them out. The ones who inspire. Who are the big thinkers. The ones who can cut through the noise and find the signal. I feel much more comfortable finding those people who have articulated a vision that matches mine – who have found the words to say what I am thinking and (more importantly) what I am feeling (I am an INFJ after all), and then saying “Yes! I want to follow you! I want to help you reach that vision.” I want to be part of your wolf pack (again, minus the crazy).

Like my radio days, there is something about being the leader that doesn’t quite align with how I see myself. But I know there are people in my organization who are looking for me to be that, and I am beginning to see that I need to spend some more time figuring out how to reach some sort of stasis with what people expect of me (and, more importantly, what I am beginning to expect of myself), and who I feel I am. It is a state of cognitive dissonance that I want to resolve because there are things I want to do and achieve that will require a level of leadership in my organization to make happen.

It is a learning opportunity, one that will require some courage and probably take me away from some of the things that I love to do in order to achieve the things I want to do. But the first step is recognizing the gap. Now to work at filling it.

Image: Take me to your leader by Zaykowski used under Creative Commons license.

CC BY 4.0 Leadership by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

Profile Picture for Clint Lalonde
Wrangler of learning technologies by day, Dad, cyclist, soccer fan and, lately, home roaster of coffee by night. INFJ. I am the Manager of Educational Technologies at BCcampus, working primarily on open education projects. This blog is a personal blog and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BCcampus.

Comments

  1. And remember, the ability to sell ideas doesn't always mean they're good ideas! Including people (in a genuine way) rather than convincing them is good leadership.

    1. Great stuff, Stan. I really love this section:

      We know that disobedience and questioning are frightening things to practice for the average person. It’s so much easier to relax and do what everyone else does. But without a little disobedience, what in the world would actually change?

      Yes, we must know when to respect the rules, but we must also know when they must be broken. We must know when to follow the path and when to strike out for a new one.

      and….

      "The best practice for leadership may be to teach those above you to value dissent."

      This requires a culture of trust and respect, not fear and defensiveness. Valuing those that are pushing at the edges. It is so important, especially when working in a unit that is tagged with providing leadership around innovation, as we are.

      Thanks for sharing.

  2. Clint, we know that you have great leadership skillsand you will succeed at being a great leader soon.

  3. Great post Clint … and congrats for putting your thoughts and feelings out here … that in itself is a sign of a someone who wants the best for their colleagues and is willing to be open, transparent, and make themselves available for dialogue on big-picture visioning.

    … and don't lose too much of the crazy … 🙂

  4. (sorry – had an issue posting the whole comment and trying again..;)..)

    I recently applied for a leadership position and came in a very close second…(don't they always say that?). Being an ENTP I tend to thrive standing up and articulating my thoughts, hence why I enjoy that part of teaching. However saying that, while going through the process of applying and interviewing for this opportunity I went through a mental tug of war I haven't experienced in a while. Many peers were encouraging and yet said I was crazy for moving from the Faculty to the Admin side. Each has its own challenges, but in the end I felt these opportunities don't come up that often in a person's life and it could be another of those life experiences that if "it doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger" (sorry, just heard the pop song song on the radio!)

    I've either worked or taught in IT for the past 20 years and have learned many lessons along the way about what does and doesn't work when trying to bring about change – mainly from the technology side. As a result I have the slightly biased opinion that I don't think enough emphasis is placed on a leader's ability to utilize technology to improve their productivity, communication and collaboration with "the pack". Granted all the core qualities everyone needs in a good leader are important, but I still find many in leadership rolls today seem to shun technology. They seem to be either intimidated and unwilling to move outside of their comfort zone or refuse to recognize the potential for positive change technology can bring to the role, let alone to the efficiency of the organization.

    Anyway, your post kind of struck a chord with a recent experience of mine. Did you read Stan's article on leadership?

    1. Thanks for the comment Phil. No, I haven't read the article. Do you have a link? Stan has been a great resource and, recently, has been a valuable source of some pushing and prodding for me in this area.

      I really feel fortunate on the technology & leadership front as I work with some people who have great foresight and vision when it comes to technology use in teaching & learning. Maybe that is why I am feeling like I need to 'up my game' in the tech leadership area. I am being challenged in a way that is directly opposite from the environment I came from.

  5. I recently applied for a leadership position and came in a very close second…(don't they always say that?). Being an ENTP I tend to thrive standing up and articulating my thoughts, hence why I enjoy that part of teaching. However saying that, while going through the process of applying and interviewing for this opportunity I went through a mental tug of war I haven't experienced in a while. Many peers were encouraging and yet said I was crazy for moving from the Faculty to the Admin side. Each has its own challenges, but in the end I felt these opportunities don't come up that often in a person's life and it could be another of those life experiences that if "it doesn't kill ya makes ya stronger" (sorry, just heard the pop song song on the radio!)

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