As I considered electives for my doctoral experience, the Technology and Leadership course both intrigued and intimidated me. Not knowing specifically what approach would be taken, I assumed I would need to learn many new applications and become relatively proficient (thus, the intimidating aspect). I have thoroughly enjoyed this course and the opportunity to connect with so many colleagues via the respective blogs – particularly on relevant and complex leadership issues related to technology. The leadership challenges of technology are significant. The discussions each week drove this point home and demonstrated that regardless of industry, geography, roles, or experience the maelstrom of technological advances impacts all of us. However, we must consider this technology force in a greater context. There are more, equally powerful forces of change in effect today. Examples of this include globalization, demographic shifts, and changing economies. These respective forces permeate every aspect of our lives with both positive and negative consequences, and technology’s imprint is playing out in real time.
I believe leadership paradigms have been changing, albeit slowly, for a few decades and it is technology that has been the catalyst ramping up the pace of change. The past decade of technological advances are not simply cool new tools to implement within an organization to increase market share or decrease costs. Technology is reshaping everything. Leaders who are able to see, leverage, guide, and use technological applications are ahead of the curve. Further, I think the role of leadership has become more essential – and more challenging – than it has ever been. Envisioning a future within a spider-webbing or amorphous context is hard to do.
As individuals, we are compelled to participate in using technology if we want to be socially connected, knowledgeable, or contemporary in our relationship practices. As organizations, technology can empower and enable services, increase productivity, improve efficiency, advance quality, and take over mundane or routine tasks. The most significant challenge, however, is the nexus between man and machine. The creation and application of technology happens because humans use their divine talents and gifts to create and the result has been breakthrough innovation and advancement of technologies that can change lives. It is also clear that we have yet to understand how to use these wondrous creations to eradicate the many inequities across the globe. Whether it is the argument that the world is flat or it is spiky we do not have to look far to identify that the promise of technology to spread opportunity has not been fully (partially even?) realized. It may still come.
I am a proponent of technology and am constantly amazed at what has become possible because of it. Whether I like or dislike what is happening may not even be relevant (there is always something positive and negative about everything). What is relevant is that we are in the midst of reshaping and redefining ourselves, our organizations, our infrastructures, our communities and societies, and ultimately our world. There is a profound transmutation underway. The most amazing aspect of it is that we are living through it and shaping it as we go. The pace of change was markedly slower in the past and thus, identifying and evaluating the impact of the change took decades or more. Today, we are doing this in real time. Moreover, every single person on the planet could participate in this co-creation (that is not to say they do, they want to, or they have the access to, but that it is possible).
As we have progressed throughout this course, I have engaged my leadership team in discussions about our shifting leadership responsibilities. We are heavy into the use of technology in our organization and in our industry and believe we are adept at using technology. However, when shifting the focus to the impact of technology on leadership we find ourselves in some uncomfortable and vulnerable situations. I can say we have only scratched the surface of what this means for our organization and for individuals in leadership roles. One of my most important roles is coaching and mentoring future leaders. I have been evolving my thoughts about my approach and my thinking about what is important in this regard. There is no question the role of technology is fundamental to any leadership role. That said, I maintain my bias (which, I believe infiltrated my comments each week) that the human side of the coin cannot be lost or forgotten. In fact, it must be front and center. In healthcare the word “burnout” is used about as frequently as any conjunction (and, but, and or in case you never saw Conjunction Junction on Saturday mornings!). I doubt many people pursue the use of the term to understand what is meant by being “burned out”. That said, technology is a factor of this phenomenon as individuals attempt to keep up with the pace of change hitting them on every front. Another key component of my leadership role is to balance the tension of stability and change and that means managing the facets of technology whether devices, networks, wirearchy, ethics, platforms, or any other. In a few generations this concern may be less relevant. Today, I would argue it remains central to the role of leadership.
Finally, I enjoyed all of the materials we were exposed to formally and informally in this course. Attempting to capture the nature of technology and leadership in eight short weeks is a daunting task. The right questions and focus surfaced essential concerns that we, as leaders, need to be deeply aware of and involved in.