Leading e-learning in a school can be exciting, invigorating, and rewarding. It can also be frustrating, isolated, and under-resourced.
Here's what I've found helpful over the years.
It takes a village to raise a leader
He aha te mea nui o te ao? He tāngata, he tāngata, he tāngata.
What is the most important thing in the world? It is people, it is people, it is people.
After several years leading e-learning in a large Year 1-13 (K-12) school, the single most helpful thing in the role was being connected to other ICT leaders in other schools. I used Twitter, Yammer, and local groups in my city to reach out to other ICT leaders, share ideas, and ask for help.
I particularly enjoyed going to networking events (not just for the kai... though that definitely helped!), and even just networking during break times at conferences. Those break times were usually even more beneficial than the conference workshop content!
I always found people were happy to connect and to help. I was occasionally on the other side too: receiving cold-call emails or phone calls from 'friends of friends' in other schools, who wanted help or advice with something. I was always flattered to be asked, and happy to share. You will find the same.
There were a couple of people in particular throughout my career who took me under their wing. These people made time to check in with me, to guide me in the right direction, ask empowering questions to help me set my own path, and especially to pull me up when I needed to be told something I didn't want to hear.
One of the defining moments of my career, which has led to the most sustained progress, was one such difficult conversation. It's incredibly helpful to have a trusted outside perspective to show us our blind spots.
In the world of ICT leadership, it's easy to feel like a big fish in a small pond. You're the expert in your school, often working alone, with expertise and skills that others want. Having a mentor and a wider community of ICT leaders will help you stay grounded, which will help you stay humble, which will help you preserve the relationships on which you build your leadership within the school.
Find a mentor. Some people prefer a mentor who's been successful in their own field; some prefer a mentor from a completely different field, to get a truly outside perspective. Either way, it's important to have somebody.
You don't want to be the big fish in a small pond; it feels good, but it's not healthy. In fact, as the great philosopher Qui-Gon Jinn said (albeit in a slightly different context), there's always a bigger fish - and the only thing worse than being the biggest fish is thinking you're the biggest fish, only to find out the hard way!
If there's no one suitable already in your circle, get in touch - we offer leadership mentoring for ICT leaders.
Honestly, once I started reading leadership books I wondered how I ever coped without them. Business leadership, personal development, productivity - almost everything I read helped me in my e-learning leadership role.
See our blog for book summaries applied to ICT leadership. Some people aren't keen book readers, so these summaries might save you the trouble; others may just want to see my take on the books and how I found them helpful to my e-learning leadership.
My tip for reading leadership books: be sure to get a good range of voices in your list. Gender, ethnic background, industry. There's more than one way to do things, and reading widely has helped me see beyond my own approach.
We all walk our own path, but there are similarities we can learn from - particularly in the leadership space. The more we share ideas with each other, the better off we'll all be! So have a look around our website, sign up for the newsletter, and be sure to keep in touch.