Effective leadership has become increasingly important over the last year and few months. With a major global disruption, it changed the way we as leaders had to think about how we are going to accomplish organizational goals.
Yes, we depend on our staff daily to carry out the business of the day. But this was different. This called for a level of faith in our staff that most leaders, let us be honest, just did not have. There was cause to worry. No remote work opportunities, strict nine to five schedules, no offer of work life balance - just to name a few of outdated workplace policies.
What happens when the pressure is applied? What happens when the unknown occurs, and the future is uncertain? You switch gears and you survive, thrive, and arrive, or you flail and fail. Miserably. It really depends on your ability to adjust the rigidity of your leadership style to align with the fluid nature of the unknown.
“I know of no single formula for success. But over the years I have observed that some attributes of leadership are universal and are often about finding ways of encouraging people to combine their efforts, their talents, their insights, their enthusiasm and their inspiration to work together.” - Queen Elizabeth II. Professional experiences have a way of shaping your philosophy. If you’re lucky, you can find yourself working under the leadership of some incredible people. My own past experiences under the guidance of leadership has shaped the way I lead and manage my team today.
I believe that leadership is a duty, not a position: A duty to lead by example. It is a duty to work with staff and encourage a sense of community that extends beyond the unit and transcends the organization. This is a privilege that is charged with vast responsibility; the responsibility to inspire, develop, mentor and empower people to believe in the mission, vision, and goals of your organization and put it into action.
It is important to be transparent and approachable. Your employees must be recognized as the single most important asset and the foundation of your organization. Providing opportunities for personal and professional growth is essential and increases employee satisfaction and in turn, causes one to take pride in their work. They should feel comfortable in sharing the bad news as well as the good. For this to occur, open lines of communication and trust must be established very early in the relationship. Information sharing and shared governance—when appropriate—should be implemented to gain buy-in and participation at all levels of the organization.
“A genuine leader is not a searcher for consensus but a molder of consensus.” - Martin Luther King, Jr. Leadership should recognize that everyone has unique roles and talents. Creativity, freedom of action, and innovation should be encouraged in consistency with the mission, vision and values of the institution. It should create a culture of pride at all levels. Employees should feel proud of what they do and understand how their job contributes to the organization in its entirety.
Empowering your employees teaches them how to lead from where they are and assists in developing future organization leaders. Leadership should never micromanage however, trusting others to do the job they were hired to do and providing guidance and support and offering constructive criticism is essential in empowering and developing the skills of others. It is important that we take interest in them as individuals and recognize their achievements and contributions.
What’s your leadership philosophy? Everybody has one or at least should. In leading from where you are, start to develop your own. Give it a foundation that is rooted in the value system that has been built over the years. Roy E. Disney said, “When your values are clear to you, making decisions becomes easier.” I believe that. . . what do you believe?
It is June 2021, and we are still feeling the effects of the pandemic. The future is still uncertain as society begins to re-open yet, new variants of COVID-19 are still showing up. We call the normal activity, the ‘new normal,’ and quickly follow that comment with, ‘whatever that will look like.’
Striving, thriving, and arriving is exactly what has happened here at IACET with the latter still happening. As we transition from the 2020-2021 strategic plan - with significant accomplishments - to the 2022-2027 strategic plan, we take lessons learned, build on the accomplishments, listen to our stakeholders, and heed their feedback. We work together under the umbrella of collegiality, respect, acceptance, and experience to arrive in the next phase of providing leadership and resources to the amazing, critical, and ever-present, international industry of continuing education and training!
Casandra Blassingame, MEd, is the Chief Executive Officer of the International Association of Continuing Education and Training (IACET). She is a recognized leader in adult and continuing education and has over 20 years of experience in higher education, continuing and professional studies, and workforce development. Prior to joining IACET as CEO, Casandra was the Vice President of Education Services for the American Gear Manufacturers Association where she led the organization’s effort in achieving and maintaining IACET accreditation. She has also served as an IACET commissioner, reviewing dozens of applications, and an IACET Board Member.