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Day 2: URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

Day 2: URI Summer Institute in Digital Literacy

Written by David Quinn
July 15, 2014

Only three things happen naturally in organizations: friction, confusion, and underperformance. Everything else requires leadership.” – Peter Drucker.

Our deep dive into leadership continued with a discussion on key characteristics of effective leaders. We were given the graphic found below and were asked to pick our top 5. We would then be shown what research tells us most people are seeking in a leader. My top 5 characteristics were:

1. Honest

2. Broadminded

3. Supportive

4. Intelligent

5. Imaginative

According to research by James Kouzes and Barry Posner (2010), the  top 4 most respected characteristics are, unsurprisingly,:

1. Competence

2. Honesty

3. Inspiration

4. Forward Thinking

To synthesize the data, our facilitator, Charlie, provided two heuristics for effective leadership. The first was that Leadership = credibility (honesty & competency) + vision (forward looking & inspiring). Secondly, maintaining credibility often comes  down to the acronym DWYSYWD or Do What You Say You Will Do. For all you Meyers-Briggs fans out there, this can be a big problem for all the Fs and Ps, who tend to over promise and stretch themselves too thin. Yes, I am one of them.

The goal of this institute is to develop a change implementation plan for integrating elements of digital literacies into the learning experiences at our respective schools. We were provided a series of pictures and asked to select one that represents your view of leading the implementation process. I found this picture to be a great metaphor any school-based change, particularly when it comes to technology

The picture reminded me of this image:

The penguins diving into the water on your far right are your innovators and early adopters. They love to try new  gadgets and often times like to discard less than-new-gadgets. They enjoy and welcome the changes. Typically, you’re preaching to the choir when it comes to change implementation plans and sometimes they’ll teach you a thing or two! These folks are interested in getting behind a vision and long for forward looking leadership as it fits with their world view.

Next come your early majority, represented by the penguins in the middle. They’re in up to their knees, mostly committed, but partially waiting to see how the early adopters are doing with the changes. They’ll bolt if the tide turns, but generally speaking they are willing to try the new digital initiatives after some training and support.

The third group of penguins with the toes in the water are akin to the late majority. Their toes are in the water as they can see direction that the group is heading. However, they are not fully committed to the plan yet and are somewhat skeptical. Typically they’ll need more tutorials and support with change and will really be watching to ensure that the “leader” is credible, trustworthy and honest.

Finally, you have the skeptics, represented by the penguins still on the beach. Often times called the resistors, they pose your biggest challenge and your biggest opportunity. There are many reasons why people resist change, especially when it comes to technology. Sometimes it is due to fear, sometimes it’s due to lack of confidence, and still more resist from being burned by past launches. However, it is important to understand the contrary perspectives to not only understand how to help these individuals see the benefits from the changes, but also to check one’s ideas for clarity, authenticity and feasibility. It’s easy to be blinded by our own visions, like a horse wearing blinders. Resistors, while posing an obstacle are actually a helpful entity that will enable digital leaders to reflect and make sure the organization is a shared vision, not an imposed one.