Leading in an Open, Social and Participatory World
ILD 831, Week Eight
If I may be honest, part of me did not want to take this course on leadership and technology. I will also confess that the pace of change and the consequences of the changes we experience in the networked world, wear me out at times. I am old enough to remember an old country and western song from the 1960s, “Make the World Go Away,” popularized by Eddy Arnold and others. More than once in recent years I have thought about the sentiments expressed in that song title. But there is no avoiding or turning back the clock on this technological revolution, any more than the industrial revolution was turned back. Leaders in this networked, social and participatory world must embrace the revolution that is underway and accept there are numerous obligations that come with leading in this environment. It would have been a big mistake had I not taken this course. First, the readings and the conversations with classmates in this course have compelled me to evaluate how leadership will be expressed very differently in the future and how I need to adjust to the necessities and realities of leadership in a digital age. Secondly, it has encouraged and re-motivated me to continue leading for transformative changes and the innovations I first introduced to my staff three years ago. Thirdly, I am reminded of my responsibilities to those I lead to help them better understand that digital is disruptive, that the disruption is accelerating, and that change is imperative if we are to stay relevant to our parent organization. Finally, this course helped me to see that I need to help deliver a vision of change, to frame it positively, and to build a diverse and creative team that has the capabilities to make change happen.
In my opinion, effective and successful leadership will manifest itself differently in the future as a consequence of technological advances. It will be imperative for leaders to comprehend the trends in technological development and understand the impact of breakthrough technologies on their institution, organization, or workplace. Hierarchical and bureaucratic leadership models concerned with balancing various interests, maintaining order, and seeking consensus, are not well suited to address the dynamic changes, or the pace of the changes, that are occurring. Weinberger (2011) has noted several challenges that hierarchical leadership faces in a networked environment. For example, distributed decision making excels when decisions require a great deal of local knowledge and when the situations are “fluid and diverse.” Hierarchical organizations, he added, “are not as resilient as organizations that distribute leadership throughout a connected network” (Weinberger, p. 164).
Different eras, by necessity, have eventually produced different forms of leadership (Marcum, 2016) and this technological era will as well. Much of the current leadership structure across business, government, and education institutions is composed of digital immigrants rather than digital natives. For the digital immigrant, developing an understanding of the networked world and being acquainted with the use of Web 2.0 tools is a continual challenge. That challenge relates to leaders remaining relevant and valued by their institution or organization (Lommen, 2016). In this era, the ability to function and to make good decisions is directly tied to an understanding of and use of technology. Leaders should be able to speak the language to technology, they should know the basics, and they should be aware of the larger picture in order to plan and to set a vision for their organizations. To do this, leaders may need to reset the materials on their reading lists, adopt a lifestyle of continuous learning, and make their own technological education and development a strategic priority. Jesse Stoner, writing about the information age, noted nine essential leadership strategies. Among those strategies, Stoner believes that developing a comprehensive digital strategy and a shared vision is critical. Having a shared vision, she continues, allows leadership to be demonstrated and emergent at a variety of levels across the institution. Within this reality, Stone indicates, are the mandates that current leadership values the institutions’ diversity and that current leaders need to proactively develop other leaders (Stoner, 2015).
Several years ago, Tomalee Doan of Purdue University wrote that “There is a generally held belief in the business world that in the global knowledge economy (GKE) and organization must innovate or risk death” (Doan, 2009). I would postulate that all organizations and institutions, not just the business world, now face this reality. It is certainly true for my world of academic libraries. In a time of constant change, ubiquitous information, and competing venues for knowledge sharing, academic libraries must acknowledge that we need to keep pace with our user needs and expectations, we have information competitors, we must innovate in order to be meaningful, and we are part of a larger organization with larger objectives than our own. Through our strategic planning and purposeful consideration it is imperative that as leaders in the information age we must focus on the most meaningful innovation opportunities. In the instance of academic libraries, solutions that meet the needs and expectations of students and faculty should drive innovations. We must demonstrate value to our parent organizations and be in alignment with their larger goals and objectives or face extinction.
Doan, T. (2009). Innovation, creativity and meaning: Leading in the information age.
Journal of Business and Finance Librarianship, 14:4, 348-358.
Lommen, K. (2016). Ethical leadership in a digital age. Leadership, 45:4, 20-22.
Marcum, D. (2016). Library leadership for the digital age. Information Services & Use, 36,
105-111. DOI: 10.3233/ISU-160796.
Stoner, J. (2015). The 9 essential leadership strategies in the age of information. Seapoint
Center. Retrieved from http://seapointcenter.com/essential-leadership-strategies/.
Weinberger, D. (2011). Too big to know: Rethinking knowledge now that the facts aren’t
the facts, experts are everywhere, and the smartest person in the room is the room.
[Books 24×7 version] Available from http://library.pittstate.edu:2059/toc.aspx