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Monday, September 26, 2005

Vision and Leadership in the E-Learning Organization


What are defining characteristics of vision in an e-learning organization? With all the talk about vision and mission, are people really taking the time to speculate on what that might look like?

While individuals understand the role of vision in an organization, the importance of vision is even more pronounced in an e-learning organization, where communities of practice include team members who are often separated by time and place, but united by technology.

Characteristics of vision in an e-learning organization can include the following:

Future-based: It is flexible, and attainable in the near future, with long-range goals also in place. It is not too rigid a vision, a dn it accommodates individual differences, locations, technology, and cultures.

Open-ended: A vision open enough for individuals to see themselves in the picture. The desired outcomes involve behaviors that the individual finds appealing and potentially enriching.

Connected: A connection is established between the individual and the leaders who articulates the vision. The result is deep identification with the concept, which leads to an understanding of self, society, and community.

Engaged Affect: It has the capacity to inspire, inflame, and to result in ongoing commitment and persistence in spite of discouraging events.

Tolerance for Frustration: The vision encourages delayed gratification, and provides a mechanism for overcoming frustration.

Collective: The vision encourages individuals to release their individual goals and objectives and to substitute a collective one, where the good of the whole is valued over individual gain.

Creative contribution: The vision inspires one to contribute one's individual, unique talent within a team, and to modify one's skills to adapt oneself to meet the needs of the group, and to achieve the collective goals.

Distributed teams / Virtual collaboration: Individuals see how they fit within the vision, and they contribute their part by means of virtual collaboration in a highly distributed environment.

Articulated in multiple delivery modes: The vision can be articulated and realized by means of multiple modalities, including text, streaming media, audio, graphics, movies.

Collective contributions: Resources -- time, talent, funds, equipment, ideas -- are contributed "any time / any place."

Leaders and Vision in the E-Learning Organization

E-Learning Queen Being Queenly - sketch by susan smith nash

James McGregor Burns, whose classic works on leadership closely examine the characteristics of the world's great leaders has, after decades of study, concluded that all great leaders have in common a few defining characteristics.

The first, the power to inspire, motivate, and transform, is based on the ability to develop a vision for oneself and one's fellow human beings.

The second, a firm inner commitment to a personal vision, involves the willingness to listen, observe, absorb the anxieties of the times and to be willing to rise to all challenges.

The desire to learn is also the desire for positive transformation, and the ability to transcend the self-limiting attitudes and circumstances that one faces when one least wants or expects it.

James McGregor Burns maintains that leadership involves inspiring and motivating individuals, and thereby persuading them to want to become followers and leaders simultaneously. Vision is the unifying force.

Bernard Bass finds that charismatic leadership inspire and motivate through the force of personality, and that their ability to communicate a vision encourages projection and affiliation.

Manfred Kets de Vries suggests that charismatic leaders convince followers to give up their narcissistic needs and to project them onto the leader. Thus, they are able to make others responsible for their destiny, in the hopes of active transformation where the leader is the instrument, the change agent. Thus, the charismatic leader allows the followers to see the realization of their hopes and dreams.

The desire to learn, the hunger for knowledge needed to implement a vision -- these are the characteristics that define the transformational leader. Leaders in the e-learning organization, with a profound dedication and commitment to the pursuit of knowledge and lifelong learning, must understand that in order to innovate, adapt, and survive, they must exhibit the qualities of great leaders. This involves being able to grasp, define, and articulate the vision in a way that motivates team members in the community of practice to work together.

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