Leadership Connections – A Reflective Look Back

Leadership Concept Map August 2016

Leadership Map PDF                             Video explanation of Map

As I reflect on what leadership means I’m drawn to Kruse’s attempt to define leadership.

“Leadership is a process of social influence, which maximizes the efforts of others, toward the achievement of a goal”
(Keven Kruse, What is Leadership?, 2013)

Leadership is not about your position or title, it’s about the choices you make within your circle of influence.  Covey (2006) explained that you can begin by leading yourself.  Great leaders start by recognizing the value of ongoing professional and personal development. Regardless of whether you are involved in education or in business, it’s about making purposeful choices to help your team work together to reach a goal.  A team can be your friends, family, your educational colleagues, your classroom of students, the people on your home based business team or the people in your department at work.

Leaders are integral members of teams which are similar to communities of practice (CoPs).  Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002) noted that CoPs are voluntary, vibrant and productive groups that foster ongoing relationships amongst group members, which builds value and engagement and in turn contributes to social capital. While every reading acknowledged teams or groups or followers, communities of practice was not a common phrase in the popular literature.  The strategies suggested for developing vibrant, voluntary communities of practice are simply good strategies to consider for all teams in any context.

As Stephen M. R. Covey (2006) said “leadership is getting results in a way that inspires trust” (Speed of Trust, p. 40).  Leadership is a multidimensional concept that not only focuses on the task at hand but on how you go about achieving the goal.  It’s like going on a trip.  We all need to be headed to the same destination, but the paths we take and the stops we make along our journey all depend on how we are going to get there.

There’s many ways to reach your destination.  The concept of differentiated learning is based on the idea that we have a common outcome to achieve, but the learning and instructional strategies we use to get there depend on our choices.   You can hop in a car and drive yourself.  Going it alone will eventually get you there, but you may have to make more stops along the way to get everything done.  You could car pool with people that you trust, but that means you have to carefully choose your team so they can fit in the vehicle.  You could hop on the company bus, train or plane.  There’s lots of ways to get results, but not every path will be as efficient or support the coevolution of social and intellectual capital.

In a Good To Great article, Collins (2001) explained that it’s all about getting the right people in the right seats on the bus.  As the bus driver (leader), you have to start with WHO is on the bus.  The right people will bring a diverse and unique set of intellectual capital with them. It also means that you have to get the wrong people off the bus.  Building strong social capital within a group starts by creating a culture of excellence where individuals are motivated to be part of strong, dynamic team.

Part of creating a culture means defining the boundaries. Dr. Henry Cloud (2013) explained we have to lead in a way that people’s brains can follow.  You won’t foster strong, interpersonal connections and create a trusting environment by creating fear.  You have to keep the team focused on their goal, inhibit the barriers that will distract them and provide the opportunity to create routines in their working memories. Sinek (2014) agreed noting the importance of creating the circle of safety and how all of our actions as group members trigger brain based responses that either reinforce the relationships or create trust gaps.

Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) referred to the organizational advantage of companies that have both high intellectual and social capital as creating innovative, trusting and cohesive teams.  While trust is not the only component of building social capital, trust was mentioned by Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998);  Daniel, McCalla and Schwier (2003); Wenger, McDermott and Snyder (2002); McGonigal(2015); Sinek (2014); Cloud (2013); the Heaths (2010); and most definitely by Covey (2006) in The Speed of Trust.  Trust was the common thread in the majority of reading that I did.

Covey (2006) gave specific trust building behaviours to practice.  Cloud (2013) discussed how trust permeates the culture you create.  It “is the starting point … [that] makes it all work” (Boundaries for Leaders, p. 171). Both McGonigal (2015) and Sinek (2014) focused on the body’s response to hormones like oxytocin which help foster trusting relationships. Trust is an integral part of creating healthy social capital, which in turn creates a strong, leadership culture.  As Covey (2006) stated and Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998) noted, when trust goes up, the costs both financial and relationship go down. Trust increases the likelihood of knowledge exchanges which also generate intellectual capital.

Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003) cited Nahapiet & Ghoshal’s (1998) different aspects of social capital.

  • Structural – how members connect with other people in the community; how does information spread (Daniel, et al., 2003, p. 5).
    • Here’s where I see an interesting connection to Gladwell’s work in The Tipping Point.  Although he asked what causes a word of mouth epidemic, the question is essentially the same as asking how information is dispersed through a person’s network.  Gladwell (2006) talked about “connectors”, the people who are linked to many different people in a variety of social circles. While the articles on social capital didn’t mention the common links in the network, I would propose that the efficient dissemination of information flows out through key connectors with in the community.  Gladwell (2006) likened it to the game the six degrees of Kevin Bacon. While we live in a social media age, there are still key influencers online that we all follow or are connected to through our online network.
    • Next Gladwell (2006) mentioned the “mavens,” individuals that are extremely knowledgeable about specific topics.  They are your go to people.  When a maven answers your questions there’s a high probability you are going to follow their advice because you trust them and know that they are suggesting the best option for you.  Networks high in social capital will include mavens and connectors.  Both have a high knowledge capital and are willing to share their tacit knowledge with the group.
    • Finally, Gladwell (2006) explained the “persuaders” are the members of the group that can change people’s minds.  They are able to convincingly share and spread ideas.
  • Next Nahapiet and Ghoshal (1998) noted the relational dimension.  There are 4 components: Trust which we noted the value of earlier; norms; obligations: and identification.
    • Both Covey (2006)  and Cloud (2013) noted the importance of clear boundaries for a team.  People need to know where they are going, clarify what’s expected and be supported by a culture that trusts them to get it done.
    • Chip and Dan Heath (2010) explained you have to shape the path.  You have to create the environment which not only encourages people to make the change but shapes their choices. The Heaths’ strongly emphasized the significance of a shared identity.  In fact, they noted it’s our go to decision making model.  We may reason out our decision using the rational model, but when in doubt the elephant wins and we decide in favor of our identity.  Avolio, Walumbwa and Weber (2009) agreed that activating an identity to which people can relate, helps to build a shared identity (p. 427).
    • Gladwell (2006) likened this notion to the broken windows effect.   We are shaped by our environment and the people in it.  Culture is how we make sense of the world and our behaviour shifts according to the environment and context in which we live and work.
    • Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003) also noted the value of network ties and configuration as essential aspects of how we access information, which connect back to Gladwell’s connectors, mavens and persuaders.
  • Lastly, the cognitive dimension is based on building meaningful connections in a shared context.  A shared language helps teams facilitate the exchange of information which creates an opportunity to build intellectual capital. Daniel, Schwier and McCalla (2003) noted the significance of shared narratives (p. 6).  Just as Carmine Gallo (2014) explained in Talk Like TED, stories not only help us organize the world, they are given preferential treatment in our memory.  Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998) also highlighted how stories are a powerful way to not only transfer explicit knowledge, but if you look closely at how the story flows the tacit knowledge is embedded, as well.
    • Bolden, Gosling, Marurano and Dennison (2003) pointed out that although there are many different leadership theories, there is no one size fits all leadership style and each theory lends itself to different styles, followers and situations (p. 8).  Knowing what style to apply depends on your context and situation and it’s an important part of responding to the needs of your team

Melrose, Park and Perry (2015) reminded us of the value of articulating our personal philosophy.  Before we can decide what or how to reach our destination, we have to understand why we chose that teaching approach in the first place.  Reflecting on your personal philosophy of learning and leadership is an important part of growing as a leader.  We all have a go to framework that not only helps us organize our learning, but it’s what we default to in times of stress.  In his TED Talk – How great leaders inspire action, Simon Sinek explained

people don’t buy what you do they buy why you do it.

Whether it’s selling a product, implementing a change or teaching a new skill.  People don’t buy in because you told them to, they are drawn to your why.  Just think about the teachers and leaders that have inspired you. It was likely their genuine enthusiasm and leadership style that you connected with most.   A strong understanding of content is important but unless people understand why the concept is important, it’s just data.

It doesn’t mean that your why or your personal philosophy of leadership or learning won’t change.  They will continue to evolve.  What’s important is that you are an active part of the evolution.  It’s the small actions each day that become the habits shaping your path and in turn your life.  Make sure you are becoming the leader you want to be not just the one that happened.

Sometimes the smallest actions say the most.  Body language and non-verbal communication surfaced on several occasions during my research.  From Amy Cuddy’s (2012) research on how body language can change the hormones released in our body and in turn how our brains think to McGonigal’s (2015) physical resilience power-up strategies, body language is embedded into social capital without us even realizing it.  Our brains will judge within seconds whether members of our network are trustworthy or not.  It’s not even something we need to consciously decide.  Our primitive brain is always working to protect us.  Sinek (2014) pointed out if the trust begins to fail our brain chemistry changes and we are no longer focused on the team goal but rather our individual survival.  Ruggieri, Boca and Garro (2013) noted face to face leadership is established through “body language, vocal inflection, eye contact and clothing” (p.98), which is reinforced based on the group’s response.

Winkler (2010) mentioned in several theories the results a leader produces are dependent upon the a group’s favorable response.  In the idiosyncrasy credit theory of leadership, for example, a leader rises as they gain credit for upholding the social norms and expectations of the group.  Once they become a leader their credits enable them step outside the boundaries and push the group in innovative directions, but only as long as the group finds the results favorable.  Too many withdrawals in your leadership credits means you will lose control. Similarly, Covey (2006) discussed the significance of making deposits not just withdrawals in your trust account.    While Winkler (2010) didn’t directly define the concept of social capital, it permeated the majority of contemporary theories that he discussed.

As I re-read my Super Better post wondering how I was going to connect gaming and resilience to leadership, I was drawn back to McGonigal’s (2015) keys connections between our thinking and behaviours that contribute to post-traumatic and post-ecstatic growth.

  • Learn to benefit find connected to Chip and Dan Heath’s (2010) find the bright spots which pairs with the strength based leadership focus.
  • Finding the heroic story encouraged us to connect to our story and how we identify with our network.
  • Cultivating connectedness builds relationships.
  • Being flexible and adopting a challenge mindset will help you and your team find the best solution rather than the one you think should work.
  • Lastly, taking committed action links to following through with what you say you are going to do (Cloud (2013) & Covey (2006)).

All of which help build social capital.

While gaming may not be your thing, the value in Super Better lies in the small, achievable challenges that build resilience. If you are focused on developing a team of strong leaders, building these strategies into your community of practice will not only strengthen the resilience of the individuals, but the team as well.  As Collins (2001) said, you need the right people on the bus and then it doesn’t matter what detours you encounter the team will make it happen.

What about e-leadership?

Avolio et. al. (2009) noted that e-leadership comes with its own unique set of challenges based on the physical distance, as well as, the type of technology; moreover, face to face is not the same as virtual environments (p. 440).  Ruggieri, Boca and Garro (2013) explained that online transformational leadership encouraged increased communication, self awareness and increased levels of team identification.  By focusing on more than just the transactions that occur within a group, transformational leaders build the skills of their followers in multiple dimensions. In short, they foster the growth of well rounded, leaders working towards a common goal.

As I reflected in an early post.  I learned the most from online classes lead by transformational leaders where we were encouraged to share our ideas without the fear of being wrong.  The true building of intellectual capital is in the sharing of and reflecting on ideas.  You don’t grow unless you share, make connections and think more deeply about your experiences.   All of which rarely happens without a positive, social capital rooted firmly in trusting relationships.  As Sinek (2014) noted, “the people always have the power” (p. 67) and the true power lies in realizing that we are all responsible for protecting the circle of safety.  The circle is what supports the coevolution of social and intellectual capital which creates an organizational advantage (Nahapiet & Ghoshal (1998); Daniel, Schwier & McCalla (2003)).

Driscoll (2005) cited Wenger (1998) as she noted how our learning trajectory changes over time.  Whether you are on an inbound trajectory headed toward full group participation as an insider or sustaining relationships in related communities of practice as a broker or on an outbound course, people are always interacting with communities of practice in different ways (Psychology of Learning for Instruction, p.168-169).  Driscoll (2005) noted the work of Lave & Wenger (1991) when she explained that becoming an insider takes time.  Newcomers start on the periphery and through their interactions with oldtimers (full participants) slowly progress toward full participation.  As new members join the group, the once newcomer becomes a mentor as they move closer to becoming an old timer (Driscoll, 2005, p. 166).

Learning trajectory is an interesting way to think about home based business entrepreneurs.  There’s a strong core group that is very active and in some cases includes the founders.  As teams grow, newcomers learn the business and progress toward full inbound participation, but just as often as new people join others are on their outbound path.  It’s an ever evolving community of practice held together by the core members.  As Driscoll (2005) shared with reference to the work of Lave and Wenger (1991), there is no illegitimate peripheral participation.  Access to most specific home based business groups requires actual membership before detailed sharing of knowledge occurs.  Whether people choose to engage and move from legitimate peripheral to full participation, depends upon the social and intellectual capital within the group.  The community of practice needs to welcome the new members and in turn new members must choose their level of participation (Psychology of Learning for Instruction, p. 167-166).

While it may at times be necessary for someone to actually take the lead, it doesn’t mean that all members can’t practice positive leadership.  We all have a choice to participate in and help strengthen the team.  The strength of a team lies not in in one person but in the complex interconnections between the explicit and tacit knowledge shared by the group.  Perhaps in the end effective leadership is less about the person leading and more about creating the conditions in which we can all learn to lead.  Avolio et. al. (2009) discussed leadership as an emergent state in which team members collectively lead each other (p.431).  Providing opportunities for each person’s strengths to contribute to and lead the team when appropriate creates a unified and cohesive group that can take on any challenge.

References available on our Leadership Resources page.



Learning About Contemporary Leadership Theory

A Review of
Contemporary Leadership Theories
Enhancing the Understanding of the Complexity,
Subjectivity and Dynamic Leadership
By: Dr. Info Winkler

cover    Winkler overviewed a variety of leadership theories in a detailed and methodical approach.  Each section provided an overview of the theory, an explanation of key concepts and ended with a straightforward review of the pros and cons of the theory.  This book serveed as an academic overview of a wide range of leadership theories, which helped me to begin to understand the complexity and diversity of leadership theories.

Winkler reviewed the theory of attribution leadership which examined leadership from the idea that observers attribute certain characteristics to people based on their interactions. Depending on the schema and the interactions we have, we begin to attribute certain leadership characteristics to the individual and in our minds they begin to emerge as a leader.

Next, Winkler examined the psychodynamic approach to leadership which considered how the individual’s personal experiences with leaders and authority figures growing up impacts their perceptions and interactions with potential leaders in their adult life. It’s interesting to consider why you react the way you do to certain types of leaders, perhaps your reaction is more a reflection of your past encounters than you first realize.

The neocharismatic theory includes charismatic, transformational and visionary leadership.   While the type of charismatic leadership depends on the type of follower (i.e. are followers looking for a leader providing strong direction to make up for their low self-concept or a strong leader with which they can identify common mission and value (p. 37).  It turns out charisma is one of the key aspects of transformational leadership. Winkler noted that while transactional theory is motivated by a leader follower exchange in order to get something, transformational leaders consider the needs of their followers and take them along on the journey (p. 40).  Winkler noted that in extreme cases laissez-faire or non-leadership can quickly cause deterioration.

Winkler explained Leader-Member Exchange Theory as the different leader-member relationships.  It turns out members can become part of the in or the out group depending on their willingness to “contribute to the aim of the group beyond the formal role determined by the work contract and the hierarchy” (p. 48).  The more a subordinate contributes the more they become part of the in group. Winkler cited research noting increased employee job satisfaction, lower turnover and increased levels of commitment to the organization when leaders established positive working relationships with their followers (p. 52).

Learning about the Idiosyncracy Credit model of leadership was more reflective of my experiences that I had first considered.   Winkler shared that leadership “is an outcome of shared interpersonal perceptions” (p. 55).  Essentially becoming a leader is the result of your continued interactions with a group in which you build idiosyncasy credit.  Your daily interactions and performance are assessed by the group on an ongoing basis and either your account balance grows or it decreases.  Your individual task competency is linked to the behaviour you are expected to contribute to the group.  My concern here is what happens when that labels sticks and you are capable of more than just your perceived competence?

Over time your credit continues to grow as you uphold the norms, expectations and continue to contribute to the group’s overall goals.  At first, you must conform to build credibility, but once you are seen as a leader you have permission to become more innovative and depart from the norms.  If you deviate to far without producing results, you will bankrupt your account and fall from favor (p. 56-57).  It’s an interesting theory which happens in many types of groups whether it’s direct sales or colleagues in a school.

Winkler explained symbolic leadership exists in the culture of the organization and the symbols that surround you.  Leaders and their actions are interpreted as symbols whch influence the followers based on their understanding of those symbols (p. 59-60).  What symbols surround you?  How are you trained to decode the meaning in the symbols around you?  It makes me think of the idea of branding that’s commonly referenced in social media.

Next up Winkler examined the “daily tactics with which power is built up and applied” (p.65) to those those around them.  What role do micro-politics play in leadership?  He reminded us that although you may tend to withdraw and shake your head just by hearing the word, politics. It’s not inherently good or bad, it’s the how leaders and followers pursue the process that can have positive or negative outcomes.

Lastly, Winkler discussed role theory where the interactions between members of a group are determined by their assigned or assumed role and the idea of social learning theory.   The latter examined the concept of vicarious learning and the role of self confidence in our ability to reproduce the newly learned task. Ideally, Winkler noted leaders should encourage individuals to lead themselves except that things are always that simple.

Winkler consistently provided a detailed, academic overview of each theory.  While extremely thorough in his overview of leadership theories, it can be easy to get lost in the intricacies and complexity of each.   At the end, you will have a greater appreciation for contemporary leadership theories, but this read is for a serious student of leadership.

Leadership Connections:

  • Winkler provided a detailed and thorough overview of several leadership theories. Some were new and others seemed to appear more often in the reading that I’ve done.  In the end, some theories focused more on the leader and others demanded that the followers are what makes leadership possible.
  • While I’m certainly drawn towards some theories more than others, each theory Winkler reviewed had value to offer a growing leader.  The more I read, the greater number of leadership theories I encounter.  Winkler practically pointed out each theory’s pros and cons.  There was no one size fits all theory.  There are theories that we hear about more often in today’s world.   Transformational and servant leadership are two that I’ve heard a number of times in the last month. But regardless of the theory you choose to follow, what’s truly important is that you begin to understand and appreciate the complexity and skills that a strong leader reflects.
  • I’m of an eclectic school of thought.  For you to be the leader that you want to be, you need to learn as much as you can.  Continue to add to your toolbox from all of the strategies and theories that you encounter and don’t discount a theory before you know what it’s about.  Each one offers a different yet somewhat similar perspective and you never know when a diverse toolbox will help you to become a leader worth following.

Winkler, I. (2010). Contemporary Leadership Theories Enhancing the Understanding of the Complexity, Subjectivity and Dynamic of Leadership. Springer: Physcia-Verlag.

Image – Screenshot from Google Books


Why does who eats first or last matter?

An Overview of
Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t
By Simon Sinek

Sinek explored not only the idea of why some teams pull together to become stronger and more successful, he also examined the brain chemistry behind it.  As a former Biology teacher, I’m intrigued by the number of times during my quest to learn more about leadership that hormones are referenced.  As a leader or a follower, our bodies respond chemically to our experiences.  It turns out how we feel affects how we trust and in turn the leader or the follower we become.

Sinek uses moving real life examples to thoroughly engage the reader.  One of my most striking memories of the book is about the circle of safety. When our leaders create a safe, trusting work place, we can all work more effectively with our teams and achieve greater overall success.  Remove the circle of safety and out of our evolutionary need to survive our primal brain takes over and we are forced to spend our energy looking out for ourselves rather than contributing to a team. Sinek explained that you can feel the circle of safety  – you know what you do is valued, your leaders have your back and you know you belong. Leaders, Sinek emphasized, “are responsible for how wide the Circle of Safety extends” (p. 23).  It’s only effective if everyone is included.

Endorphins, dopamine, serotonin and oxytocin are the four primary chemcials that contribute to our body’s positive feelings or happy state as Sinek referred. The first two are the selfish ones designed to ensure your survival as a person, wheres, the second two, serotonin and oxytocin, help you to socialize and cooperate with others (p. 37-38). Endorphins mask the pain and enable you to keep going while dopamine gives you the feeling of accomplishment and makes you want to do it again (p. 41).  Serotonin, on the other hand, helps us work hard to give back to the group.  The more you give back the more you are seen as a leader (p. 49). Oxytocin is the trust hormone, “it makes us social” (p. 49). Mix in a little cortisol to up the stress and anxiety factor and you have quite a cocktail depending on the culture that you create.

Sinek explained that overtime alphas emerge in our social hierarchies and we follow because these leaders are expected to protect us.  It’s part of the social contract. Great leaders do what they need to help those in their care.  The accolades and spotlight continue to be offered by the people as a thank-you for their leadership. Leaders who forget that won’t lead for long.  As Sinek noted, “the people always have the power” (p. 67) and the true power lies in realizing that we are all responsible for protecting the circle of safety.  While increased authority enables formal leaders to do more. Leadership is about the responsibility to do more for others, it’s looking after those in your care.  Sinek concluded it’s something we can all do regardless of rank.  Look after those in your circle (p. 215-216).

Leadership Connections: 

  • Sinek offered biological connections to explain why we respond the way that we do.  He also noted the impact our small choices have on whether or not we rise as leaders or fall from grace.   As formal or informal leaders, it’s important to consider the type of working environment that we create.  I’ve worked for both types of leaders and can tell you it’s exhausting when the circle of safety is in jeopardy. When people are reduced to numbers and the toxic fear begins to spread, no one wins.  Your primitive brain takes over in an attempt to ensure your survival.  All your energy goes into managing your stress and protecting yourself and your work suffers.
  • As leaders, we need to step back and consider the environments that we are creating and consider the needs of our followers.  The more I learn about leadership the more interconnections there are between different leadership theories. They all share similarities, but what makes a good leader great is not a simple as it seems.  It’s how you put all of that knowledge into action each day that determines the difference you will make.

You may also want to check out his TED Talks: 


Sinek, S. (2014). Leaders Eat Last: Why Some Teams Pull Together and Others Don’t. New York : Penguin.



Summary by Key Takeaways – http://keytakeaways.io/books/leaders-eat-last/

10 Big Ideas from Leaders Eat Last – http://www.slideshare.net/DeanBokhari/10-big-ideas-from-leaders-eat-last-by-simon-sinek


Summary – Leadership Theory & Competency Frameworks

Summary of
A Review of Leadership Theory and Competency Frameworks

By. R. Bolden, J. Gosling, A. Marurano and P. Dennison
June 2003

If you are looking for a quick overview of leadership theories, Bolden, Gosling, Marurano and Dennison succinctly review the key points of a variety of leadership theories ranging from trait based through to transformational leadership.  Each section provided a quick summary of the key theoretical aspects and touched on a variety of leadership theories including:

  • trait based leadership
  • behavioral
  • situational
  • contingency
  • transactional
  • transformational

Of interest is how the focus of the research has expanded to not only include the leader but the followers and situational context.  The authors noted that there is no one size fits all leadership style and each theory lends itself to different styles, followers and situations (p. 8).   Bolden et. al. reviewed several leadership models and competency frameworks by notable organizations such as Federal Express, Lufthansa, Shell, Ministry of Defence, and the National College for School Leadership.  Each framework highlighted priorities and characteristics unique to its developing company, yet there were many similarities when you moved beyond the choice of language descriptors.

Bolden et. al. selected and briefly over viewed six leadership development initiatives each designed to develop certain characteristics in their participants.  This section provided links for follow up.  Next, the authors examined how to provide governance to the different roles within legal and ethical frameworks.

Lastly, Bolden et. al. reminded us to be thoughtful when considering leadership theories as many theories fail to mention the role of the followers and the complimentary leadership skills needed for success. I agreed with their conclusion that many leadership attributes have been identified and frameworks developed but most importantly the value lies in the process of developing a model.  What seems to be missing in much of the leadership reading that I have done so far is as Bolden et.al. noted.  Where do we go once theories and frameworks have been developed?  What are the highest impact strategies that help build effective leadership? And is the process ever really finished or does the framework continually need to evolve?

Although somewhat dated (June 2003), the most helpful part of this article  for me was the overview of theories at the start and reflection on leadership at the end.  As I read through each theory, I began to see connections to both the education and business worlds in which I work.  Each perspective offers an insight into characteristics that will enable you to be considered more leader like, but each theory’s strengths apply to different types of situations, followers and organizations.  Perhaps it’s my eclectic learning style, but at this point I’m most likely to add the relevant points from a variety of theories to my leadership toolbox.  Leadership and what makes a person a leader is much more complicated than it first appears.

I wonder how often we stop to think about why we follow the leaders we do and does who we follow say more about us than the leaders themselves?


Bolden, R., Gosling, J., Marturano, A., & Dennison, P. (2003). A Review of Leadership Theory    and Competency Frameworks. Crossmead: University of Exeter. Retrieved from http://www.fcsh.unl.pt/docentes/luisrodrigues/textos/Liderança.pdf

Summary of Leadership Styles in Synchronous and Asynchronous Virtual Learning Environments

A Summary of
Leadership Styles in Synchronous and Asynchronous Virtual Learning Environments

Article By
Stefano Ruggieri, Stefano Boca and Maria Garro (PDF)

There is a difference.  Face to face leadership is different than virtual leadership.  Ruggieri, Boca and Garro highlighted that while face to face leadership is established through physical presence including “body language, vocal inflection, eye contact and clothing” (p. 98) along with comments from inside the group. Virtual leaders are challenged by the technology. “The medium forces the leader to adopt other indicators to let followers know he/she is in charge, which include frequency of intervention, small delays between request and responses, being (almost) always available” (p. 96).  How you recognize the leader happens in different ways online.

Ruggieri, et. al. noted that virtual team research reinforced that transformational leadership develops higher levels of “trust, performance and job satisfaction compared to those of transactional leadership”(p.97) yet it’s still lower than face to face situations. Virtual communication occurs synchronously in real time through video conferencing or live chats or asynchronously at different times through discussion threads or email (p. 97-98). The authors noted text based communication as the most commonly studied medium. Text has many positives including the capability to enable many people to contribute at once (p. 98).

A good reminder for all of us is the caution that typing speed along with the ability to decode and read can significantly influence a person’s ability to participate, which may not be indicative of their ability to contribute to the group but of a language barrier (p. 98).  An important reminder for all of us as educators of EAL students and for team leaders with large cross country teams.  Our preferred medium may be text but not everyone may be able to fully participate and contribute.

The authors explained Henri’s method for examining the 5 dimensions of the learning process through online communication because not only are the number and frequency of messages important, but the meaning and learning embedded within the exchanges. Ruggieri, Boca and Garro studied synchronous and asynchronous communication within text based problem solving groups with transactional and transformational leaders.

The researchers noted online groups led by a transformational leaders resulted in”an increased level of cognitive and metacognitive communications” (p. 100) which in turn led to leader behaviour which encouraged self awareness and personal growth, as well as, enhanced levels of “proactive personality and team identification” (p. 101).  Because the transformational leader builds the skills of the followers, they “have the ability to influence the emotional climate of the work group” (p. 101).  The chosen interactive medium is a tool that also shapes group communication differently than face to face interactions.

Overall, Ruggieri, Boca and Garro provide an insightful look into the world of virtual leadership and how your online leadership style has the potential to affect motivation and effectiveness of your team.

As a team leader, I’ve often wondered how to lead online and this article provided an interesting look into how technology impacts our communication, leadership and in turn our team results.  Whether it’s a large scale home based business Facebook group or a ETAD discussion forum, leaders will emerge.  The groups I’ve most enjoyed follow a transformational style where I’m inspired to join in and participate rather than because I have to.  As I reflect back on 9 online classes, some of our most insightful, interactive and asynchronous conversations have developed in our groups with transformational leaders that encouraged us to share our ideas without the fear of being wrong.  For the real learning is in the sharing of and reflecting on ideas.  You don’t grow unless you share, make connections and think more deeply.

Ruggieri, S., Boca, S., & Garro, M. (2013, October). Leadership Styles in Synchronous and Asynchronous Virtual Learning Environments. The Turkish Online Journal of Educational Technology, 12(4). Retrieved from http://files.eric.ed.gov/fulltext/EJ1018022.pdf