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Posts Tagged ‘leader

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This YouTube video is a brilliant critique of talks by self-proclaimed thought leaders. It revealed every drop of snake oil.

The first time I was called a thought leader, I did not even know what that was.

It is still a label I am not comfortable with. If someone sticks it on me, I pull it right off. I recall someone introducing me as a thought leader at an event. When I took the floor, I explained how I did not just deal with thought but also with action.

Reflecting on that helped me remember when I might have first been called a thought leader. It was a session I led that pointed out the fallacies of lectures and talks. How was that for leading with thought?

Leadership and Learning by gcouros, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  gcouros 

At a recent workshop I facilitated, a member of the organizing team introduced me as a thought leader. I have also been asked to join a large international corporation in the capacity of a thought leader.

All this has led me to this simple thought: It is easy to think and say things progressive. It is much harder to do.

I would rather be acting progressively because I prefer to be judged by what I do. As an educator of educators, I need to model mindsets, attitudes, and behaviours. Thinking or writing about them is not enough.

043e follow the leader by jjjj56cp, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-Share Alike 2.0 Generic License   by  jjjj56cp 

In July, the press fell over themselves when the interim-CEO of Twitter, Jack Dorsey, responded to Kim Kardashian’s suggestion on how to improve Twitter. Here is one example of a report.

That not committal reply received four-figure retweets and four-figure favourites. So do tweets by celebrities, social media superstars, and prominent people even if they said they just ate a bagel or farted gold dust.

OK, the gold fart might actually be newsworthy. But for the large part, people will fawn over and adore mundane navel-gazing as long as it comes from a famous navel.

Lesser lights who actually share something worthwhile, particularly in education, might get double figure retweets and favourites if they are edu-stars. The rest of us generally shout into the ether.

So it was no surprise when I asked @TwitterSG a question three weeks ago and did not receive a reply. After all, why should @TwitterSG bother with me if I am not a KPI or PR opportunity?

It made Twitter sense to acknowledge @mrbrown as he is Singapore’s blog-father and well-known in local social media circles. The Prime Minister has even mentioned him as an example.

That is not how we (should) behave as edu-tweeters. Visit any vibrant #hashtagged educational ‘live’ or slow chat and you will experience creative and critical thought 140 characters at a time.

We do not have that in Singapore because there is still so much fear and ignorance about educational social media in general and Twitter specifically. Many teachers here still do not seem to possess a global view or wish to be part of something larger than themselves. If they did, they would not say they have “no time”.

If there was a PISA-equivalent for teachers learning, unlearning, and relearning on Twitter, we would be a failing nation. We would then overreact by paying big money to visit foreign lands, attempt to recreate those cultures, and hold teachers to new one-size-fits-all standards.

Thankfully no such PISA-for-edutweeting exists. But if it did, it would at least create action. The inertia we have is so palpable it might take the form of a couch potato: It sits and watches and stuffs itself silly.

So what might @TwitterSG and teachers who say they tweet do? They might learn something from this simple exchange I had with a vendor of vending machines in London.

To date, that Twitter account only has 69 followers and been around since February 2011. However, it is a very good example of what to do in social media — being social.

I tweeted just before 1pm Singapore time, which was 5am UK time. But I received a reply just 20 minutes later. I sent a follow-up question and received a reply just three minutes later.

I was very impressed with the person who handled the vendor’s social media account. I have tweeted various groups here in Singapore (for example, banks and telcos) and I do not get such quick and satisfactory replies. More often than not, I get no replies at all.

If you are going to be on social media, you cannot just disseminate information. Whether you like it or not, it is a two-way street. Social media is about having meaningful conversations, not just perfunctory and easy ones. If you want to broadcast, go back to Web 1.0. While back there, see how you will lose relevance to and respect of the people you are reaching out to.

Edutweeting is not recreating traditional teaching behaviors online. It is not just about broadcasting, only showing up for class or meetings, or providing answers devoid of context and connection.

Edutweeting is about conversing, challenging, and reflecting. If someone asks an honest question, take the trouble to reply. If someone makes a comment that is not trollish, offer your thoughts.

Follow the Leader, Severn Valley, Glouce by Kumweni, on Flickr
Creative Commons Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License   by  Kumweni 

Apple listened to Taylor Swift when she lamented how artistes were not paid during the free, three-month trial period of its streaming service, Apple Music. That was because she had clout. But this cannot be the only strategy for those in charge of social media channels to emulate.

@TwitterSG might chose to follow the example of its interim-leader. It has every right to. But it also needs to recognize the problems it is facing with its apps, its users, and its behaviour (I shared some thoughts on these yesterday).

Educators have a voice. We live in a world now where everyone can publish, broadcast, and dialogue. We do not have to follow some leaders. If we do, they will lead us down the wrong path in edutweeting because they only respond to the results of popularity contests. We do not answer to the celebrities; we are accountable to each other and to our learners.

We need to find our path. We need to be authentic and personal on social media.

Over the last three days of the June school vacation, my son returned to school for a leadership camp. A vendor conducted the event and gave it a theme: “Eagles leading the way”.

Surely that sounds good and I should have nothing to complain about. If you think that, you do not know me very well.

Eagle species tend to be solitary creatures. You are unlikely to see one eagle leading other eagles in some flight formation. You definitely will not see eagles leading other birds. The only time and place you might see eagles leading might be in a cartoon.

I kid you not; I am taking this seriously. As an analogy, the theme was not just inappropriate, it was inaccurate and irresponsible.

Gimme a V by hjhipster, on Flickr
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A more accurate bird example might be geese. But a theme like “Taking turns to lead the way like geese” is not catchy or glamorous.

Nonetheless, that is what all the kids attending the camp were learning to do: To become better leaders by taking turns to lead depending on what they were good at and what their responsibilities were. This was a collaborative form of leadership.

The vendor could have come up with a better theme or analogy. It had the responsibility to do so.

My beef is not just the poorly selected theme. It is the frivolity with which people who think they are educators or para-educators approach their work. They might not realize that if we want want holistically-developed children, we need teachers who teach holistically first.

The eagle analogy reeked of lazy thinking. I would describe that sort of modelling or teaching as hole-istic. It is incomplete and easy to see through.

I am not saying teachers should be perfect in every way. But they must realize that they teach more than content. They also model values and thinking. If they are not sure about a some piece of information, a value, or a way of thinking, they should not fake it. Such weaknesses are more easily caught by their learners than they are taught.

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It is Friday. Time for something light.

The semester I declare war on giving talks is the semester I am invited to give the most number of talks.

In addition to two conference presentations, a couple of consulting gigs, a handful of professional development and pro bono sessions, I have also volunteered to share Leading by Listening and Learning over Lunch.

Here is the title slide.

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This might be a weird source of inspiration for leadership. It’s really about having the guts to follow.


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