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Digital Leadership | The Heartware of Tech in Higher Education

For nearly two years, I have been researching my two passions – social media and leadership. Between my study of students and administrators on college campuses, I’ve gotten to see and develop tools that will reveal how we can approach social media through the lens of leadership. Over the years I have used the term digital leadership, that prioritizes relationships over marketing in virtual spaces.

In short I have found this:

Digital leadership is the heartware of technology in higher education.

Heartware is your internal operating system as a whole person in the digital age – with core values, life mission, and passion. It is your calling, your gut, and your meaning making methods.

Screenshot 2016-04-20 20.22.45Heartware is about humanizing tech through human operations and relationships.

Digital leadership is heartware.

Digital leaders are drawn to more than tech products like innovations in software and hardware. A digital leader brings them to life on and off the screen.

Digital leadership is an investment in human relations, prioritizing building a campus community online and connecting as people (not as ‘users’) in virtual spaces.

The key and critical point of a digital leader is their ability to take their influence and impact to all settings, from the boardroom to the keyboard.

Digital leadership research, theory, and practice.

To inform this practice and philosophy, I’ve developed a Digital Leadership Framework in addition to a Digital Decision Making Model in Higher Ed. In a future post I will share what this framework and model are each made up of. These findings will be formally published this fall in the New Directions in Student Services volume that I am a co-editor and author for. My chapter is called The Digital Identity of a Student Affairs Professional.

My research also shines a light on digital student leadership development. For students exploring their digital leadership capacity, they need to be educated and mentored by campus digital leaders. There are pillars to digital leadership education that can guide their formation as they prepare for the new work rules of the digital age. I touched upon some of these pillars in a previous post (found here), and will continue sharing content and context on digital student leadership. These pillars will also be formally published in the Spring 2017 volume of New Directions in Student Leadership, Going Digital in Student Leadership.

Social media and skill building around digital leadership is a quickly evolving topic; this means we can’t wait for publications to be released to inform practice. Just this month Instagram, SnapChat, and Facebook announced major updates. And have you heard of the latest popular application with middle schoolers – Musical.ly?!

To provide support, resources and community around digital leadership, I have created a number of new resources on my website and other online platforms.

  1. Resource Page: On this page you will find recommended books, bloggers, academic journals, associations and organizations , as well as defining social technology terms.
  2. Facebook Page:  This page is a place to share my original content on digital education, as well resources I have curated around Digital Identity, Reputation and Leadership in higher education.
  3. Digital Leadership Newsletter: I am excited to announce that I will be using this communication platform as a vehicle to share highlights of my work as a digital leadership educator, sharing resources and even throw in a surprise or two. 



Further, in May I will be kicking off a month-long initiative with GuidebookEDU and this summer I will also be testing out a podcast!

I am excited about these new endeavors; as well as my continued work on publishing research, blogging and providing digital leadership education on campuses around the world. I aim to show, and not just tell, how ‘heartware’ in tech is the next wave of leadership – not just in higher education but in our digitally connected and going viral society.

I hope you feel my excitement as I step up my efforts as a digital leadership educator. I encourage you to reach out through my website ‘contact’ page to further explore possibilities to collaborate, bring me to your campus or share your input on digital leadership.

About Josie

I’m Dr. Josie Ahlquist—a digital engagement and leadership consultant, researcher, educator, and author. I’m passionate about helping people and organizations find purposeful ways to connect, engage, and tell their unique story. I provide consulting, executive coaching, and training for campuses, companies, and organizations that want to learn how to humanize technology tools and build effective and authentic online communities.

My blog and podcast have been recognized by EdTech Magazine, Inside Higher Ed and the Chronicle of Higher Education. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education, was published in 2020 and was listed as a #1 new release for college and university student life. I have been growing my consultancy since 2013 and am based in Los Angeles. When I’m not helping clients lead online, you might find me training for a triathlon, spoiling my nieces and nephews, or exploring with my husband and our rescue dogs in our new RV called Lady Hawk.

I’d love to connect! Find me on Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook.

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