By Angie White
In this blog we will examine the final two groupings of essential skill areas from the Framework of Essential Skills for the K-12 CTO developed by the Consortium for School Networking: managing technology and support resources and core values and skills. This framework provides a context in which to place the key practices of effective servant leaders and the new success factors of boundaryless organizations discussed in my first blog.
Managing Technology & Support Resources
• Oversee all tasks related to technical, infrastructure, standards and integration of technology
The scope of these tasks is extensive and may very well be beyond the expertise of the technology leader. Consequently, the technology leader should use the servant leader practice of Self-Awareness to identify those areas of weak or missing knowledge and ability. Once these areas have been identified, the technology leader should use the practices of Inverting the Pyramid and Unleashing the Energy and Intelligence of Others to use the expertise of colleagues to assist in this process.
• Facilitate decision-making and enhance effective communication with stakeholders
The servant leader practice of Foresight is important in the area of decision making as most technology decisions require a certain level of intuition as to how technology will advance and how to best prepare for the coming changes. Communication with stakeholders can be enhanced if the technology leader utilizes the servant leader practice of Listening. I utilize a variety of means when communicating with all stakeholders. Communication through the use of websites, social networking, email, surveys, discussion groups and focus groups is common in my district.
The success factor related to decision making is Speed. Many decisions associated with technology must be made and implemented quickly. An organization must be able to make rapid decisions to ensure that the needs of the organization are met.
• Serve as a strong business leader who guides purchasing decisions and shows good return on investment
Making good purchasing decisions and showing a good return on investment requires the servant leader practice of Foresight. Technology leaders must have the ability to anticipate technology advances in order to position their district for the greatest impact on student learning and achievement.
• Establish an information culture in which data management is critical to strategic planning
The establishment of an information culture should include the servant leader practice of Developing Your Colleagues. Providing varied opportunities for professional development of stakeholders (teachers and administrators) is essential for stakeholder groups to make full use of the data in the strategic planning process. Business and community members should be included as part of the extended strategic planning team, while teachers, students and administrators should make up the focus area strategic planning teams. The technology leader must use the servant leader practice of Listening during strategic planning to ensure that all stakeholders have the opportunity to contribute as a part of the process.
Core Values & Skills
The role of K-12 technology leaders is evolving and requires not only technical and educational skills and abilities, but also political and interpersonal ones. This fourth area refers to an underlying set of values and skills that cuts across all others and is necessary for accomplishing all of the other competencies identified in the framework:
• Effective Communicator
The servant leader practice of Listening is imperative to effective communication. All stakeholders within the organization must be included in the planning, implementation and evaluation of all aspects of technology implementation. Technology leaders must possess or develop the skills of an effective communicator.
The core value of courageousness is required of effective technology leaders. The servant leader practice of Foresight is linked to this core value. Technology leaders must be courageous when acting on intuition with regard to technology advances. Failure of foresight may prove to have far-reaching detrimental effects upon the district.
• Flexible and Adaptable
The ability to be flexible and adaptable may be reflected in several of the servant leader practices. A technology leader may exhibit these abilities when after practicing Self-Awareness realizing their limitations in an area. Flexibility and adaptability may be demonstrated through the servant leader practice of Listening to stakeholders. The servant leader practices of Self-Awareness, Inverting the Pyramid, Coaching, Not Controlling and Unleashing the Energy and Intelligence of Others may be used when technology leaders allow colleagues to implement solutions other than their own.
The success factor of Flexibility is obviously related to Flexible and Adaptable abilities. Demonstrating personal flexibility makes it much easier to promote and encourage flexibility in one’s district.
The core value of being results-oriented is related to all seven of the servant leader practices. Being an effective technology leader is dependent upon achieving positive results—the desired result being student learning and achievement.
The success factor of Innovation is connected to the core value of being results-oriented. Encouraging and rewarding creativity promotes an innovative environment in which problem solving prevails, yielding results for the district.
The core value of innovativeness can be seen in the servant leader practice of Foresight. As a technology leader, I must develop/assess and implement technology advances routinely. Intuition must be used to determine which technology advances should be implemented and when. Innovation comes into play as these technology advances allow the technology leader to create or implement a new way of doing something.
The success factor of Innovation is obviously related to the core value of innovativeness. Demonstrating personal innovative qualities makes it much easier to endorse and inspire innovativeness within one’s district.
In summary, effective technology leadership is not composed of a single element, but three. This combination of elements results in more than the sum of each element. When servant leadership practices and boundaryless organizational structure are placed within the context of the necessary skills and abilities for CTOs these elements are transformed into something new and powerful. Effective technology leadership is the result.
Angie White is chief information officer for Gallatin County School District in Kentucky.