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Teaching and Learning Leadership in a Connected World

Leadership_1 I'm halfway following the Connectivism course, while also preparing to leave in a few hours for the Nonprofit Roundtable Future ED Fellowship course where we'll be exploring concepts of leadership over the next few days. This morning I was hit by two really important statements:

Teaching is modeling and demonstration.

Learning is practice and reflection.

So simple, yet so profound. These have been the principles by which I've always tried to facilitate learning, but never stated as clearly as this. In the clarity I find new insight.

Over the next six months we'll be teaching people who are used to being the "do-ers" in their organizations. They are the ones in charge of implementing and managing programs and services. Now they must transform themselves into leaders, the ones who have to provide the vision and the environment for the "doing" to occur.

The "teachers" in our course will be people who are leaders themselves.  In their work with the Fellows, they will need to model and demonstrate the behaviors and skills of leadership--the art of being a leader. This can be difficult to do in only a few hours, but if leading is about who you are, I suspect that this will happen naturally.

At the same time, the Fellows will need to practice leadership and, more importantly, reflect on that practice. They will need also to observe what is being modeled for them in terms of leadership and determine how these behaviors they're seeing do or don't fit into their own concept of leadership. Providing them with the structure and the support to observe, ask questions, and be open to their learning and reflection will be my challenge.

In a call yesterday with some of the other instructors for the course, one of them said that he sees leadership needing to be based on core personal values. So true and a big part of what we'll be exploring in using the Total Leadership model.

Leadership is about knowing and being your authentic self. It's about bringing your activities into alignment with that core self. It's about creatively experimenting with and exploring ways to get things done. Leadership is "doing," but it's doing based on a fundamental understanding of who you are and how to act with integrity in being that self. Leadership_2

Leadership is also about ensuring that your core values are aligned with the values of the organizations and people with whom you interact. If you do not find a match, something has to give.

Usually I've found that it's  the person who bends to fit the values of the organization, rather than the other way around. Sometimes this is a good thing, but usually it is not.

When we live a life that is not aligned to what is most important to us, we are generally unhappy and ill-at-ease. Our life does not fit us and, just like shoes that pinch and squeeze, a life that does not fit our values causes us pain with every step.

We also do not do our organizations, colleagues, friends and family any favors when we bend too much to fit their values. This is usually when we act with resentment or give up altogether. Inevitably and, often explosively, being out of touch with ourselves will backfire.

But back to my core observation here--that this learning environment I'm going to be creating must support both the modeling and demonstration of leadership skills, as well as the practice and reflection of them. Working with people who are used to the "doing" will make the reflecting more of a challenge I suspect. When you're busy making things happen, it can be hard to observe and reflect. Yet this is what they will need to do in order to make that transition. Facilitating that process will be an interesting challenge for me.

Photos via Donald Clark


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Kia ora Michelle!

You said, "Teaching is modeling and demonstration. Learning is practice and reflection. So simple, yet so profound."

It may be simple, but it's certainly not profound. I'd go further and say that it is far too simple to be of any use at all.

Modelling and demonstrating are certainly not teaching. They are modelling and demonstrating. Teaching involves much much more that is significant and that is not mentioned in your summary. Granted, a small portion of teaching may involve 'modelling and demonstrating', but to say that these components are teaching is like saying music is vibrations and patterns.

Before you have practice, you must first have learning. To say that practice is learning is clearly putting the cart first. The same applies to reflecting, though this can be regarded as part of what may also take place during the processes that may lead to learning taking place.

If I can use analogies here, we might as well say that medical practice is caring and administration - that the cure for illness is exercise and recuperation.

Ka kite

I'm afraid I'm going to have to agree with Ken on this one. I have tried, in the past, just to demonstrate and model, and it was a disaster. We as teachers have to help our learners focus and reflect. However, reflection is no good if students don't then develop mental models that they can try out and tweak for to make sure they understand what they have observed.

Also, my experience with a lot of current leadership training is (as in education) all responsibility is put on the leader. However, when teaching group communication, I found that there should be equal training for "followers". A good leader can assess the "followers'" needs (just as a good teacher should as part of their job, assess learner needs) and negotiate understanding within the groups, between the leader and follower, and between the group and the outside world (including other groups the group members might be part of).

In sum, leadership, teaching, and learning are complex and interpreted differently depending on experience, culture, and environment.

Well, the great thing is that this post led to a good discussion! I was drawn in immediately to the "practice and reflection" part since it fits in with what I'm working on right now, but my "model" if I can call it that also includes an emotional dimension to what I'm calling learning. So I was excited by the post and started to think. Then I read the first two comments and started to think some more. Thanks to ALL.

Teaching certainly should be more that modeling and demonstrating. I tend to think of it as explaining and provoking. And it's certainly leading or else it's not effective teaching.

Another element to it is creating a foundation of knowledge that the students can build on. While the value of practice or experience in learning is profound, there are many things in life that we cannot or should not experience personally, and so need to learn vicariously. A good teacher is trustworthy and builds a relationship with her students and can communicate a body of knowledge that will be accessible and useful to her students.

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