Digital Leadership Within the Field of Education

A sign that says do something great.

Please note: This blog post is a course related assessment for the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology program at Royal Roads University.

Unit one of the LRNT 525 – Leading Change in Digital Learning course contained several readings that I was able to relate to in my roles as a Learning Technologies Specialist and Part-time Professor at Durham College. For the purposes of this post, I will focus on my position as a Learning Technologies Specialist within the Centre for Academic and Faculty Enrichment. In my ten years at Durham College, I have had the pleasure of leading several projects, committees and stepping in when needed to take on a leadership role. Through working in the field of higher education, I found the work of Sheninger (2012) and Khan (2017) related most to the leadership style that I possess and the qualities that I admire in a leader. Several of the 7 Pillars of Digital Leadership in Education (Sheninger, 2012) resonated with me in my leadership style. I believe in transparent two-way communication with all stakeholders, leveraging agreed upon digital communication channels to keep the entire team in the loop and engaged with project goals. I encourage professional development through internal and external opportunities that arise and continuously seek ways to improve operations by connecting with other leaders in higher education through social media platforms such as Twitter and LinkedIn and by attending local and international conferences.

The educational field continuously evolves, and so must the leaders working in education to provide students with the best learning experience possible (Sheninger, 2014). Khan (2017) discussed the importance of flexible and supportive approaches to leadership strategies to meet the high demands of change due to digital technology. While several individual leadership theories and frameworks were discussed throughout the readings such as reflective leadership, transformational leadership (Castelli, 2016), Adaptive Leadership and Transactional Leadership (Khan, 2017), I believe that a hybrid approach to using aspects of each leadership style works best based on personnel and the specific work environment. As leaders continue to evolve, they must also build capacity to keep pace with the changes. Stoll (2009) states that “capacity is a “quality that allows people, individually and collectively, routinely to learn from the world around them and to apply this learning to new situations so that they can continue on a path toward their goals in an ever-changing context” (p. 125). Post-secondary institutions are complex and ever-changing due to internal and external factors (Khan, 2017), requiring leaders with the capacity to stay current in the ever-changing field.

While the topic of educational leadership has been covered throughout this post, digital leadership has only briefly been touched upon. Sheninger (2012) defines digital leadership in the field of education as:

“establishing direction, influencing others, and initiating sustainable change through the access of information, and establishing relationships in order to anticipate changes pivotal to school success in the future. It requires a dynamic combination of mindset, behaviors, and skills that are employed to change and/or enhance school culture through the assistance of technology” (p. 2).

Three approaches that can be used to support this definition of digital leadership that were highlighted throughout the unit one readings are reflective leadership, adaptive leadership, and transactional leadership.

Reflective Leadership

Reflective leadership requires leaders to continuously reflect upon their individual and team behaviours and situations while striving to achieve improved institutional performance (Castelli, 2016). Through reflective practices, leaders can pinpoint areas of weakness and develop a plan to strengthen their team and internal processes to be more successful and efficient in the future.

Adaptive Leadership

With continuous change occurring within the field of education (Sheninger, 2014), an adaptive approach to leadership allows leaders to navigate through new challenges and determine appropriate resolutions based upon the specific issue the organization is facing, rather than deciding a resolution solely based upon past experiences. (Khan, 2017). While navigating through the problem, adaptive leaders collaborate with their team to develop a mutually agreed-upon direction to move forward (Khan, 2017). In my past experiences, breaking down silos and working as a team to solve an institutional problem has helped improve employee morale and improved the collaboration within an organization.

Transactional Leadership

Transactional leadership is frequently used within the educational setting between students and professors. Students are required to complete assessments and upon successful completion, receive a passing grade (Khan, 2017). Outside of the classroom, this can occur through employees completing a task for their employer and gaining recognition for their achievement. The transactional leadership approach effectively motivates employees to achieve the desired outcomes; however, it may not motivate employees to take any further actions past the initial goals (Khan, 2017).

While there are both strengths and weaknesses to the previously mentioned approaches, by leveraging specific aspects of each leadership theory and framework, leaders are able to use particular methods that best match the needs of their team and organization. I look forward to continuing to grow as a leader and developing new strategies and approaches based upon the course readings and my professional learning network both within and external to the Master of Arts in Learning and Technology (MALAT) community .


Castelli, P. (2016). Reflective leadership review: a framework for improving organisational performance. Journal of Management Development, 35(2), 217-236.

Khan, N. (2017). Adaptive or Transactional Leadership in Current Higher Education: A Brief Comparison. The International Review of Research in Open and Distributed Learning, 18(3).

Sheninger, E. (2014). Pillars of digital leadership. International Centre for Leadership in Education.

Stoll, L. (2009). Capacity building for school improvement or creating capacity for learning? A changing landscape. Journal of Educational Change,10(2-3), 115-127. doi:10.1007/s10833-009-9104-3

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