Leading the Way

Leading in today’s technological world can be challenging, to say the least.  The seemingly insurmountable amount of information available and endless emerging technology advancements can be overwhelming.  Add the ever changing work environment, the challenge of always being connected to work through our cell phones and the shift to individuals using social media to communicate with others and collect information that informs decisions.  The ethical issues that are interwoven into all of the above, so how does a leader deal with all of these challenges?  Perhaps instead of viewing this laundry list of topics as challenges, view these as opportunities to lead.

Over the course of the last eight weeks, numerous important topics have been shared, discussed, contemplated, and debated.  The concepts and topics have revolved around technology in our lives and how as leaders do we ensure that our teams and organizations are doing what we can to wade through the information available and make informed decisions.  In our world today, information is available to an increasing number of people, most often through computers and smart phones.  The ease of the availability can be viewed as a blessing and a curse.  Networked knowledge is more easily accessed by individuals through the internet and more specifically through the use of social media type modalities.  The use of blogs such as this one can be accessed my anyone that has access to the internet.  The challenge can be identifying who has “good” information to share and who does not.  Social media has given each one of us a platform to share our knowledge and our experiences.  It is vital that leaders encourage individuals to seek the knowledge of others through avenues such as this but to continue to dig deeper and ask additional questions.  We want to encourage dialogue to be deeper and not gravitate simply to those with like thoughts but to engage in meaningful dialogue with those that have different views and experiences than that of our own to consider various sides to the problem before making a decision.

As leaders, it is important not only to help others manage information and knowledge but for us to model the behavior.  Big data, data management, and analytics have become popular buzz words.  The use of data to make decisions is expected in our world today.  It is easy to get lost in the amount of data that is available to us.  The vast amount of data can cause paralysis.  Data integrity can be an issue as well.  Similar to the information overload mentioned, knowing if the data we have is accurate can pose challenges.  The concept of networked knowledge, when we combined the data sources, personal experiences and knowledge, with the experience and knowledge of others is the balance leaders should seek.

As leaders, it is crucial that we seek to have an eye on the horizon and consider emerging technologies and how they can best assist us in our mission and meeting the needs of those we serve.  Instead of chasing the latest and greatest constantly, being aware of what is important and doing our best to anticipate the future.  As Kevin Kelly described in his 2016 TED presentation, we need to understand the tendencies and look for patterns.  We need to consider these patterns when making decisions as to what to invest in and what not to.  These types of decisions can also inform us as to changing work environments.

Being cognitive of the ability of the employee to be connected to work nearly all the time and the need for time away from the job is an important consideration.  Leaders need to understand the needs of their employees and how best to balance those needs with the needs of the team and organization.  The flexibility and convenience technology brings can also create struggles of feeling the need to always being “on.”  Setting realistic expectations and living by the expectations are the key.

Finally, the ethical issues with each of the topics I have highlighted this week are linked and underline each of the areas.  Social media can be used as networking knowledge, but as we have all witnessed, it can pose a plethora of issues for organizations and individuals.  The access of personal data available often can cross the ethical lines as well.  The internet has opened the world globally, and conflicting beliefs and ethics can further complicate things for leaders.  Ethical considerations should always be considered by leaders in this ever-changing technological world.


12 thoughts on “Leading the Way

  1. Hi Jason…and nice job on this post! You offered many good points that I keyed-in on, but I really appreciated that you highlighted the value and need for self-leadership and behavior modeling in leadership today and moving forward into the great digital unknown. This simple (and sometimes forgotten) practice can have dramatic impact on whether a particular tech trend is perceived as challenge or opportunity, noting that it’s not always (or maybe even often) the technology itself that creates problems…but rather our use of it. One area that I have had to be very intentional in this respect is in modeling the standard with my team that I am NOT always on…and that they shouldn’t be either. I work hard encouraging them to create boundaries that establish and protect a healthy work-life balance. However, there are some other stakeholders (including the chairperson of the Board of Directors to which I report) that embrace a much different philosophy…so there is a constant pull in the opposite direction no matter what I say. The power of simply backing up my words with behavior that matches has been profound! Now, it has not always been easy, but I believe it is necessary. Is there anything in particular from your own leadership that you are willing to share as an example of leadership behavior that has helped to mold a challenge into an opportunity?


    • EA,

      Good afternoon. Thank you for your comments and for sharing your experiences. To further build on the idea of modeling behaviors, I believe building a culture of looking out for one another solidifies the behaviors. Due to working out of state during the week and being away from my family, I have spent weeknights working. I have mentioned to our team the need to work extra hours during important times of the year; however, I have also told everyone the need to balance their time, so they do not burn out. I have mentioned that at times I am better at encouraging others to practice balance than I am doing it myself and that from time to time we need to “push” each other out of the office. On occasion, I have had someone email me to go home when I have been in the office multiple evenings in a row. This culture of looking out for each other is spreading!



  2. Interesting post…and I like the idea of viewing challenges as opportunities. “Looking for patterns” might be on leaders’ job descriptions in the near future…although to some degree I suspect that AI will be bringing patterns to our attention. We will then have to figure out the human aspect to those patterns.


  3. Dr. Watwood,

    Thank you for your response. I agree with you regarding the help of AI in establishing patterns, but like many other examples, higher education may be slower to use tools that utilize AI. It seems higher education is slow to adapt to most things. I suppose that is just another opportunity!

    It has been a pleasure to have you as an instructor. Keep in touch.



  4. Good afternoon, Jason. Interesting post this week. I was drawn to your comment about modeling behavior as it relates to information and data. Working in an IT department, I have seen an entirely new level of the “need” or desire to be connected at all times. Employees are frequently seeking out innovation and new ways to accomplish our goals. I, as the department leader, have to weigh the challenges that are required with considering and implementing new technologies against the need to be efficient and utilize our resources effectively. What other things or behaviors do you perceive as requiring modeling or shaping?

    It’s probably a little dated now, but you may want to check out the 2007 article by Rodriguez and Solomon (http://www.mitpressjournals.org/doi/pdf/10.1162/itgg.2007.2.3.3) regarding leadership in a networked world. On page 7 there are some questions that still seem relevant today, even if the particular innovative technologies they mention are not so innovative anymore.

    All the best,
    The Ayes Have It


    • Ayes,

      I try and model behaviors as much as I can. I feel modeling comes from my desire to be a servant leader. David Melchar and Susan Bosco provided research in 2010 explained those they interviewed associated modeling behavior as a servant leadership trait
      (https://www.uvu.edu/woodbury/docs/achieving_high_organization_performance_through_servant_leadership.pdf). I do my best to model behaviors I expect from others on our team. Whether that be being collaborative with other offices, utilizing recruitment tools we have invested in, or going the extra mile to best serve our students. I do my best never to ask others to do something that I would not be willing to do myself.

      On a separate note, I have to imagine you get a lot of suggestions for technology tools that are suggested as “musts!” How do you balance encouraging others to bring ideas forward when I have to imagine you need to say “no” more than you say “yes”?



      • I get those types of “musts” presented to me all of the time. Unfortunately, my institution is not in a financial position to take a great deal of risk, so that eliminates a great deal of the ideas that come my way. On the other hand, fiscal discipline can spur a great deal of creativity. Sometimes that type of situation can actually create opportunties for my employees to seek out low-cost and experimental options that may prove useful to us as an institution. When organizations are able to rely on the more common costly options, they lose out on opportunities to find creative and new innovative technologies.


  5. Jason,
    I enjoyed reading your post this week and I agree with you on the importance of leaders to consider the ethical considerations within the technological world we live within. I think leaders should also inspire others to think critically about technology and our use of it. As Michele Martin’s blog (http://www.michelemmartin.com/thebambooprojectblog/2015/12/work-in-progress-the-leadership-lab.html) highlights collaboration as being important for social artists to embody. I can see leadership becoming likened to social artistry as leaders must be able to acquire participation from individuals-not force participation but encourage dialogue.
    As I read Martin’s blog, I love the terms social artistry and I envision an individual creating art through others’ participation. I found another source on social artistry by Molly Harvey (http://www.mollyharvey.com/downloads/m-soul-woman-social-artistry.pdf). One thing that I like about this resource was how it defined social artistry and its importance a bit more. What are your thoughts on social artistry? Do you agree?
    Thank you,


    • Keshia,

      Thank you for your comments and for your contributions. I must admit, I do not know much about social artistry. I will say that the examples illustrated in the article you provided (http://www.mollyharvey.com/downloads/m-soul-woman-social-artistry.pdf) are areas that I am encouraging others to participate in. Notably, collaboration among differ networks, the concept of flexibility, and continuously learning and evolving are my takeaways. These are vital in my world these days. Which are areas or takeaways most important in your professional life?



  6. Jason,

    Enjoyed your approach this week – clear points, well articulated. “Opportunities to lead” … love how this can become a mantra – to keep on the constant lookout to fill in as a leader in any and all opportunities. Not to limit our focus to our professional roles – but rather to expand it to every interaction. I appreciate your emphasis on seeking diverse thought. And am also reminded that Weinberger (2011) reiterated our resistance to embracing that with which we do not agree. So this may well continue to be very difficult to attain. So even though diverse thought seems to make us smarter (https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/how-diversity-makes-us-smarter/) it will also continue to be a challenge. Best regards ~ Tricia

    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. New York: Basic Books.


    • Tricia,
      Thank you for your comments. My mantra has been “challenges are opportunities” since I started my new position. Those around me may be growing a little tired of the statement. If nothing else, I am driving the concept home.

      Recently, I have been telling each of our employees that I need their input, but in many cases, in the end, I will need to make the decision that I feel is the best for our student and the University. The approach has been well received. Time will tell if this will continue to be an effective approach.



  7. One thing that resonated with me from your post, and is easily overlooked, is the ethical component of all these technologies. I see much opportunity in the ability of new technology to shake up the status quo, but also realize that there are wakes of consequences that we will not be happy with. Honest feedback to blogs and articles can lead to trolls, and non-troll comments that are filled with disrespect, myopia, and hate. I think that some of this could be considered birthing pains, but getting through them will require the courage that has always been needed to cry foul on disinformation, agenda-driven discourse, and selective presentation. I think that it may come back to your point about balance. Disruptive technologies throw the world out of balance, but it takes diligence and critical thought to bring the new world order into balance again.


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