This chapter presents a case study of the process of employing technology in a project involving the development and presentation of a unique leadership program for the not-for-profit sector in a major Canadian city. The project relied on telephone and Internet technology as a primary means of communication between the three women developing and delivering this program. The chapter provides a background on the development of the program; the ways in which technology was employed; and the problems and benefits of employing technology in doing this. Finally, it identifies the strategies and interpersonal skills found to be most effective in facilitating technology-enhanced collaboration, and makes recommendations for maximizing the benefits of using technology in the process of creating new approaches to leadership development. The chapter can contribute to the literature in the field of leadership development, collaborative program development and diversity management in the field of leadership.
Historically, within Western contexts, the concept of leadership has developed as a particularly individualistic venture. However, the varying changes in the local and global marketplace, and within organizations, has ushered in multiple constructs of leadership that are informed by varying cultural practices, social expectations, and the involvement of organizations that are located within cultures that are foregrounded within modes of communal leadership. This unsettling of “the leader” position has required a shift in our ideas regarding leadership; the practice of leadership; and also the way in which we manage leadership issues.
Leadership is emerging as quintessentially a collaborative process where decisions are no longer the sole charge of an individual. Rather, there are multiple stake holders who are expected to play an integral role in any decision making process. In addition to the multiple emerging constructs of leadership which are significantly informed by globalization practices, there are attendant changes regarding how leadership is developed and negotiated. Collaborative practices continue to be identified as the hallmark of effective leadership, despite the role that technology plays.
Pearson (2000) for example defines globalization as “the process in which economic, financial, technical and cultural transactions between different countries and communities throughout the world are increasingly interconnected, and embody common elements of experience, practice, and understanding” (p 10). Globalization then, facilitates a sharing of ideas and resources across vast geographical boundaries. Prior to the explosion of various technological developments such as the telephone, and more recently the Internet, the levels of contact between equidistant groups required enormous amounts of cash infusion and time involvement. The evolving technologies that have accompanied global development have resulted in the removal of geographic and time/space boundaries that in the past limited the potential for cross border development projects. Leadership therefore is no longer contained within organizational or geographical boundaries, thereby requiring an increased usage of technological forms of communication.
According to Appadurai (1990) with the advent of “print capitalism, a new power was unleashed on the world, the power of mass literacy and its attendant large-scale production of projects of ethnic affinity that were remarkably free of the need for face-to-face communication … between persons and groups” (p. 325). Therefore in this chapter we will examine the manner in which leadership program development has unfolded in a process that relied heavily on technological advancements and limited the usage of face-to-face communication between the parties. This leadership program was developed and designed for the executive directors, senior managers and board chairs of not-for-profit organizations in a major Canadian city. Technology was a central means of communications between the program developers; the primary forms being the telephone and Internet. The chapter will discuss the problems and possibilities of using technology; highlight the ways in which tasks and roles were delegated, discuss the strategies that we used to facilitate this process; explore the cross-cultural dynamics that emerged and the processes that were employed to address the conflicts that ensued. Finally, we will identify the strategies and interpersonal skills that we believe were most effective in facilitating technology-enhanced collaborative leadership development.
Key Terms in this Chapter
Leadership: The life-stance of continuously focusing one’s attention and commitment on a desired future, working with others to take action that brings that shared vision into being over time. Effective leaders exercise compassion and bring many “soft skills”, that is, people management skills to the table, in addition to their technical skill set. Effective leadership also recognizes the role that power plays in structuring relationships and identifies strategies for leveling out power imbalances.
Project Management: Involves a range of knowledge, skills, tools and techniques to manage resources and ensure that the objectives and deliverables of a project are achieved in a timely and cost effective manner.
Technology Enhanced Leadership: Refers to the inclusion of varying forms of technology and technological equipment to enhance the process of leadership, and requires less face-to-face interaction. This form of leadership however requires a clearly defined structure, clearly identified goals and objectives and the provision of multiple opportunities for team members to identify and address conflicts and difficulties that may emerge.
Globalization: Refers to the processes that result in the growing interconnection amongst various regions of the globe and is characterized by increasing economic, cultural, political and technological transactions. Leadership in the context of a dynamic global world must recognize the shifting and multifaceted constructs of leadership and knowledges that are brought to bear in workplaces and organizations. Leaders must engage in inclusive and collaborative practices designed to harness these multiple sites of knowledge and recognize the various benefits that can ensue.
Collaborative Leadership: Involves a style of leadership that provides opportunities for leaders to practice inclusion by openly soliciting and acknowledging the input and involvement of all members in a manner that empowers all members of the team. This form of leadership fosters open communication and on-going learning.
Inclusion: Refers to the process of ensuring that diverse perspectives are represented and included on an equitable basis. These sites of diversity can include gender, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation, ability etc., and are recognized as important sources of knowledge that can contribute to the dynamism of emerging projects and processes.
Detailed Design: Often termed “teaching guide”, or “lesson plan”, and is an approach used by instructional designers to identify the goals, learning objectives, exercises, activities, materials, and set-up required for each segment of a workshop or training program. Detailed designs also facilitate easy replication of the program, since they form the basis for leaders guides, which provide detailed instructions for leading the training session or workshop.