As I read Michele Martin’s blog, A Deep Dive Into Thinking About 21st Century Leadership, the first paragraph immediately caught my attention. She is creating something called a “Leadership Lab” that she plans on launching in January. Back in 1987-1990 I participated in Air Force ROTC in college, and once per week we had “Leadership Lab.” It was designed to teach us, as future Air Force Officers, what leadership was all about. I sometimes laugh because a decent amount of the time was spent teaching us to march in formation, which is an activity that I’ve only done 3 or 4 times since being on active duty. But it did allow each one of us to learn a bit about leadership. When I think about how much leadership has changed in those short 25 years, it amazes me. The Air Force has changed and the world has changed.
When I worked as an I.T. manager, I was enveloped in technology. As a manager, I would quickly be left behind if I didn’t embrace technology. I had that job for about 6 years and saw a huge change in technology over the course of that time. When I started, we were mainly using Windows 95, but had a number of machines running Windows for Workgroups 3.11. By the time I left, we were running Windows 2000, Windows XP, and Windows Server 2003. The operating systems we used didn’t present many management challenges except that we had a continual change in different applications that the company needed in order to run. Keeping up with versions that would run on our changing operating system was a challenge. Also, working with individuals and departments to sift through their “needs” vs. “desires” on software and hardware was a difficult task. It was often my responsibility to decide whether or not a software package was needed out in the field, as well as manage the expectations of the employees in regards to software and hardware.
One of the first things I was exposed to in this course was Nick Bostrom’s talk while at TED in 2015. One thing he talked about was that we need to get a handle on creations such as Artificial Intelligence (AI). He mentioned that there is no OFF switch to the Internet. He believes this could also be the case with Artificial Intelligence. His viewpoint is that we may not be able to turn off an AI entity if it got out of control. He also brought up the point that machine intelligence is the last thing we need to invent. Once machines get more intelligent than the human brain, they will become better at inventing than we are. That is a profound and scary thought. That statement really makes me wonder how much Artificial Intelligence will change our landscape beyond what we currently know.
I was amazed at the statistics Dr. Watwood showed about his blog posts in 2013. Although he only posted 41 times on his blog, he had over 6,600 hits that year from 4,675 unique visitors. That underscores what I tell my students, subordinates, and children, that what you post online can go a lot farther than a person expects it to. I was really glad that we were required to create our own blog and how easy it was to make it look nice. I feel that this could be a useful leadership tool in the future. If nothing else, it is a good way to share information with employees.
During the course I not only had to research a tool on my own, called Padlet, but I was able to see quite a few other Web 2.0 tools that others had researched. Without a doubt this gave me a great overview of some tools that I will be able to implement in classes I teach. I had heard of about 75% of these tools, but had never taken the time to learn about them. So being able to read others’ reports on these tools was great. In addition, I learned about several tools I had never heard of.
Knowledge management (KM) was a topic that came up and it reminded me of the leadership nightmare of how much information is really out there. Just because an organization may have a nice looking knowledge management system in place does not mean that it is used correctly. As I researched the knowledge management systems in the military, I was reminded that there are quite a few disparate systems out there. Each one is used to a different extent, and there is no standard way to organize the data. I may easily be able to access the different KM sites within my organization, but if I can’t think along the same lines as the person who organized it, I’m stuck trying to navigate around to different sections of the page in order to find what I’m looking for. I’ve often found that it’s often easier just to walk to that office and ask them to provide me with what I’m looking for, which is opposite of what a KM system should be.
The last half of the class dealt more with new and emerging technology. Although I keep up with technology fairly well, I have to say that it was still overwhelming. Just the Internet Trends slide show alone boggled my mind that somebody put all of these technological ideas into one presentation. I imagine multiple people were responsible for it, but it still amazed me. Part of the information presented showed me how much technology has changed over the years and how much and how quickly it is predicted to further change. This really underscores how much a leader must stay on top of technology. Some may argue that this is the reason that a leader hires technical experts. I agree that leaders need to surround themselves with people who are the experts in technology. But I also am a firm believer that a leader needs to embrace this technology as well and have a certain level of understanding of it.
I really liked the article entitled, 6 ways work will change in 2016. The discussion on how some companies will be built to be mobile from inception is a fascinating concept. Most companies nowadays that allow people to work remotely have had to do it as an afterthought. I was really excited to read the prediction that we will see more video and less PowerPoint. Although I really think PowerPoint has been and is a great tool, it is often overused. I can barely work a day in the Air Force without seeing some type of PowerPoint presentation. It has gotten a bit stale and is in need of something different, in my opinion. I do worry about the discussion about work-life balance, as I have already seen that many people, including me, are expected or required to be always on, always responsive, and always available. Gone are the good old days when a person could leave work at 4:30 and not have to think about work again until 8:00 the next morning.
Being a leader has always been a tough task. Since the first time people got together to work towards a common goal, there have been issues. Some people work harder than others, some are smarter than others, some work well with coworkers, some don’t work well at all with others, some are easy to lead, and some are tough to lead. Besides the people aspect, the environment has changed as well. Technology is something that facilitates being a leader, but also can make leadership more difficult. Being a leader means keeping abreast of new developments and everything else happening in the work environment, and that includes technology. In the article, 7 Requirements to Be a Leader Today, Ron Edmundson covers what he believes to be the attributes that leaders should have today. They provide a great summary of what we have covered in this class and I believe a leader will be very effective if these 7 items are embraced.