From the Principal's Office: Pillars of Digital Leadership Series – Communication

11/19/2013 12:00:00 AM
This post is the first in a series that will outline the foundational elements of my new book, Digital Leadership: Changing Paradigms for Changing Times.  It is set to be published by Corwin Press on January 14, 2014.  Currently there is a pre-publication discount of 15% for any orders before this date.  Over the next couple of weeks I will introduce what I have come to identify as the Pillars of Digital Leadership, a conceptual framework for leaders to begin thinking out changes to professional practice.  My book will focus on each of these elements as part of a change process. It will illustrate them in action through the work of practitioners and provide implementation strategies. 

Pillar #1 - Communication

If you were to look at the many characteristics that great leaders share, effective communication would be at the top of the list.  Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and Dr. Marin Luther King Jr. were great leaders who could transfer a message like no other.  Each was able to achieve success in part due to his ability to effectively communicate.  You would be hard pressed to identify an effective leader who was a poor communicator.  Communication serves to provide information, convey our vision, lay out the elements of a strategic plan, promote values, motivate stakeholders, and quell perceptions that are not accurate.  It is an art that combines inter and intra-personal skills with mediums to amplify an intended message. The art of communication has not changed, but the tools that we have at our disposal to deliver our message has.

Image credit: http://juntaedelane.com/category/articles/articles-articles/marketing-research/

As society has evolved, the way in which the world communicates and interacts has as well.  Digital leaders understand that technology provides a variety of pathways to initiate two-way communication with stakeholders.  Traditional means, such as newsletters and email, no longer suffice as cornerstones to a communications strategy.  Digital leaders seize upon the opportunity presented by digital tools (i.e. social media, mobile apps, video conferencing) to meet stakeholders where they are in order to convey a message and elicit feedback on initiatives.  In a world where access to and consummation of real-time information is the norm, digital leaders adapt their strategy to become more effective communicators.  

This is not to say that traditional means are no longer important elements of an effective communications plan.  They are, but digital leaders understand that the rise of mobile devices in particular has dramatically changed the way that stakeholders receive and access information.  The most effective communicators in society today are those that continue to develop and refine traditional means while leveraging digital tools to have a more profound impact. Whether you are a principal, superintendent, or teacher improving how you communicate plays a role in your success as an educator.  

Chapter 5 in my book takes a critical look at how digital leaders communicate. It places an emphasis on the work of Joe Mazza and how he has increased community engagement through a variety of communication strategies involving technology. After reading this chapter any educator regardless of his/her role will have a collection of tools, strategies, and ideas to take his/her communications to the next level.  Digital leaders use technology to engage stakeholders in conversations.  These conversations become the building blocks to create and support meaningful relationships based on the positive messages embedded in our communications.  To put it simply, without effective communication, there’s not effective leadership.

How have you changed your communications strategy in the digital age?

cross-posted on A Principal's Reflections

Eric Sheninger is a NASSP Digital Principal Award winner (2012), PDK Emerging Leader Award recipient (2012), winner of Learning Forward's Excellence in Professional Practice Award (2012) and co-author of Communicating and Connecting With Social Media: Essentials for Principals and What Principals Need to Know About Teaching and Learning Science. He presents and speaks nationally to assist other school leaders in effectively using technology. His blog, A Principal's Reflections, was selected as Best School Administrator Blog in 2011 by Edublogs.
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