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Change jobs recently? Your experience may yield some nuggets of insight that Harold Jarche found in his gold pan.

Harold Jarche just put his finger on one aspect of them:

Would you still be a leader if you lost your positional authority? How would you know? In networks, your authority is derived from your reputation and the value of your connections to others in the network. Value and authority come from engagement with a network, usually over a long period of time. It’s the sum of many small interactions. So what would happen if you suddenly lost your positional authority? (Read more

The answer to Harold’s question is, “Yes, you would still be a leader if you changed your positional authority IF your authority is derived from your reputation and the value of your connections to others.”

When I worked in large urban school district and leadership changes took place, everyone on staff had to “re-establish” their value, to “prove themselves” to the new boss. Not surprisingly, only some were able to accomplish this…worse, it seems to happen frequently in schools, shaking loose existing staff (some who need to be shaken loose, others who are just frustrated, and others who are indifferent).

Protecting my team and I, at least for awhile, was a lesson I learned many years ago in my late twenties. That lesson was that you had to get your story out there, to define your projects and programs before the Central Office did it. In fact, if you could do this, then you “took the stone out of the sling pouch.”

And that story needed to be shared with as many people as possible. Not because it was false, untrue, inaccurate, but because it was worthy of being shared, warts and all. And, you had to do your best to encourage others to share their stories. Before social media, we relied on email, press releases, etc. Did I tell you about the time I won an argument with my boss because I took advantage of the Texas Education Network (TENET) to get emails out to a district-wide email list? It was inconsequential, I don’t remember what the argument was about, only that losing the argument would have hurt edtech in that District.

It’s not just about winning petty arguments with people who don’t get it. From email, we’ve moved to better tools with a broader reach. Now, social media makes sharing those stories much easier. That’s why Harold’s point is so important–we have moved beyond organizational hierarchies that control individual’s lives.

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When you build a successful professional learning network (PLN), one that connects you to global learners committed to improving teaching, learning and leading, then what happens to you in a school district or organization is less likely to upset your apple-cart. I can look back over countless interactions with Texas educators and confess to being grateful, profoundly appreciative, for each.

Am I a leader? I’m less interested in being a leader, and more of helping others and sharing ideas and information. That’s why I really like Harold’s point here:

Do people refer to your work? How often do people quote, cite, or repeat your work? If not often, then perhaps it’s time to start working out loud and contributing to your knowledge networks.

The inclination for most folks in leadership position is to lock things down. Do you know district staff who aren’t allowed to share their district’s intellectual property, whatever they create during the day? I do. And have for years. In every case, keeping data locked down in a school district was the WRONG thing to do. Beautiful, wonderful work only benefited a few people, and because technology changes so quickly (heck, everything changes quickly), work that would have stood as a shining beacon for all to see, to recognize the organization that served things up rather than locked it in a safe, died a quiet, lonely death. What’s more, the people who made that work moved on.

The Internet now makes the shelf life of great thinking accessible and easy to share. Each of us, individuals and organizations, are building a reputation that says, “Yes, we are trustworthy and what we make is worth using to change the world.”

Harold says, “Start working out loud and contributing.” Whether you’re getting the word out via email and paper newsletters (wow, that was a long time ago) or social media, for goodness sake, get it out there. If you don’t, you may find yourself stuck with some new boss who doesn’t understand the value you bring. Harold shares more in a related blog entry, Leadership for the Networked Age:

Hierarchy is necessary for (and only for!) building compliance. It is not networked. As formal power, It is not a form of leadership – but of management. In the presence of formal power, leadership is actually quite impossible to happen. 

Influence is necessary for social density and connection. It is networked. It is a form of leadership.
Reputation is necessary for value creation. It is networked, as well. It is the second form of leadership.

The response to Harold’s question, How would you know? Your network would help you.

Thank you.


Everything posted on Miguel Guhlin’s blogs/wikis are his personal opinion and do not necessarily represent the views of his employer(s) or its clients. Read Full Disclosure

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