In February 2016, I will be participating in the Penn State Emerging Leader program. Several people I respect have been through the program, so I am very honored to have been selected and am looking forward towards understanding what “leadership” means. The program specifically does not guarantee any kind of promotion, and I think that is a good thing. I think the skills learned in this program can be applied to many positions at Penn State regardless of whether one is a “manager” or not. I know I will be working on communication skills needed to help different projects move along. I’m also hoping to discover more about how people higher up in the organization think about their work and goals.
As part of the program we will be posting blog posts reflecting on what we are learning and experiencing in our leadership development activities. Interestingly, one of the first questions I asked myself is whether I should use my existing “work” blog or whether it should be separate. As you can see from all the posts listed in the left, I am using my ongoing work blog.
For my initial blog post, I am thinking about changes that people make as they advance in their careers. Some of them are superficial changes like adopting a more “mature” wardrobe or haircut, but there are internal changes needed when you are asked to think about the “bigger picture.” These can be important considerations when moving on to a different role, but I have been equally concerned about making sure I can keep in touch with aspects of my life that may bring me balance or important perspectives to new situations.
Although I have been an instructional designer for 15 years and am proud of it, my training is still primarily in linguistics and I know it affects my perception of different issues. For a long time, I think I felt like it was so outside the “typical” instructional designer mind set that it could be a liability. I know that some of my early colleagues were concerned that I might not understand pedagogical theory, and they were right to remind me that I needed to bone up on the basics of pedagogical theory to do my job.
Fortunately, I was able to use my training in linguistics to help me learn more about other educational theories. I also quickly realized that my background gave me some unique insights into faculty culture and into certain content. Is it a coincidence that one of my earliest projects was a Spanish course? Those years of Spanish came in very handy.
Today, I suspect that most of my newer colleagues don’t necessarily realize I am not a “trained” instructional designer. I’ve learned enough from reading and from work to understand the challenges of being an instructional designer. I also realized that my colleagues came to instructional design through a number of paths. Some are former teachers and others majored in many different fields before coming into instructional design. Few of my colleagues have a “typical” background, but almost all of them have been able to leverage their backgrounds in unique ways.
And perhaps the greatest irony is that if I somehow became a “linguist” again, I would have a different perspective into pedagogy that I wouldn’t have had without being an instructional designer.
I’m keeping this blog as a reminder that I shouldn’t think of learning leadership as becoming a “different” person, but learning to be the same person I have been all along but with some leadership training that will benefit me in any number of different ways.