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What is your Why for Leading Online?

The book – my book – is finally here! To celebrate, this shorty episode is a peek inside Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World. You’ll learn about the digital leadership framework, which is grounded in research and practiced on-screen by higher ed leaders who will inspire a personalized and values fueled approach to building relationships online. You’ll also hear the guiding philosophy for digital leaders, called Heartware. Finally, you’ll learn about the community that was behind me every step of the way on my journey to becoming a published author. Tune in to celebrate and to learn more how you can discern, “What is your Why for Leading Online?”

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Notes from this Episode:

Josie Ahlquist:

Hello and welcome to Josie and The Podcast. I’m your host, the newly published author, Josie Ahlquist. My book, Digital Leadership in Higher Education: Purposeful Social Media in a Connected World, was released last week. And I am over the sun, moon, and stars excited about it. There’s lots to tell you and lots of people to thank, but let’s first start with some gratitude to my friends at Campus Sonar, who have been along for the ride as I wrote the book and are the sponsors of this very podcast. True story, I met the CEO, Liz Gross, online long before we met in person, and now we’re constant collaborators.

 

So believe me when I tell you the internet is real life. And that means the perception of your campus online is reality. Do you know what your reality is and if it aligns with your strategic initiatives? Social listening can help answer questions you have about your campus’ online conversation, both what people say to you, like when they tag you, as well as when they don’t, and how to incorporate both those insights into your institution’s goals.

 

And getting started doesn’t have to be a huge investment of time or money. Campus Sonar, a higher ed social listening agency, has the goods to help you get started. Whether you’re just looking to read up or want to try a low cost introductory project, learn more at info.campussonar.com/podcast.

 

And now join me for a book celebration happy dance. You may not see it, but I’ve got a big, big grin on my face and I can’t dance too much because it would mess up the audio. But y’all, I am thrilled, humbled, overjoyed, and all the other adjectives to finally describe these hashtag in my feelings being a published author. And it would mean so darn much if you would even consider picking up a copy of the book for yourself, a colleague, or your entire team. Digital Leadership in Higher Education is available on Amazon, on Apple Books, pretty much anywhere you can purchase books in these times we are in, but also you can grab it directly from my publisher, Stylus, and all those are going to be in the show notes. And when you purchase it and get reading, I would love to know about it. Tag me @JosieAhlquist, and as you learn, as you experience through the book, use the hashtag #DigLead. And there are lots of resources that go along with the book that are on my book website, josieahlquist.com/digitalleadership.

 

Now I’m recording this the week after the book launched, and I feel like I’m still catching up. It’s a little bit like jet lag, like book launch jet lag a little bit because I did lots of fun events and Zoom calls and special celebrations in order to really give it justice and not just to promote it and try to get on lists or anything. But I had to really allow myself to sit and be present and to allow the excitement, not just for myself, but for lots of people that were part of this journey and that are a part of the book.

 

So there was a book launch kick-off where I shared and just invited in people to experience the emotions that I was feeling that day. And then a couple of days later, I did an actual party where we got dressed up and I had some special guests that came in. And again, just experiencing that moment as a community because I mean, I’m going to be honest. I was really excited to plan for and have an actual party and someday maybe we really, really will.

 

So of course, because we are in season right now for the podcast and the book coming out, I wanted to make sure I had an episode that was very much book-themed and would give you a insight into what is actually inside, because my loyal listeners of this podcast, or maybe it’s your first time, well you have gotten lucky to get to hear the framework and the philosophy behind this text. So you’re going to get all those goodies and hear from some wonderful people who are featured in the book.

 

And then at the very end, I’ll do some thank yous, especially in case I maybe get emotional, because I did that in the events from last week. So let me first tell you about the parts of the book. There are three of them, and again, I sure hope this doesn’t feel like a sales pitch or anything, but I’m trying to just maybe give you a little bit of a window into it in case you can’t pick up the book. I totally get that. Not everyone can just be grabbing up books right now.

 

The first part is called A Primer for Digital Leadership, setting the stage about what we see right now on the internet, even a little bit of a technology timeline, and then starting to introduce to you these concepts that we’ve already known as it relates to human behavior online, like digital literacy, digital citizenship, what is the difference between a digital reputation and a digital brand?

 

First part also includes a research study that I did in order to get a tech pulse of the field of higher ed and all types of people in all types of positions, how they choose to navigate and show up, especially on social media. And then in part two, it’s called A Purpose Driven Digital Leadership Presence. And this is the heart of the book where I present the philosophy and framework for digital leadership. There are five parts where I’m going to share in just a moment that are echoed through the core philosophy of heartware, which is also defined as what is your why for leading online. We also get talking about leadership theories and how those can influence and inform our choices online and off. You get a values-based strategy because digital leaders need to have a strategy, even if it changes. And then the real ROI of social media, we talk about the relationship equation.

 

And in part three of the book is Digital Leadership in Practice. There are examples throughout the entire darn thing, but this last part I wanted to point to and shine the light on as many people as I could, who are both using these tools for digital storytelling, social impact and influence and role modeling and leadership. And then also ending the book, looking more toward the future about what’s this next wave of influence and leadership going to look like in higher ed and beyond.

 

And so another little sneak peek, as we think about digital leadership and making that a common term that we use in higher education, well what does that really mean? What has informed my work and practice? They aren’t just thoughts. I’ve used data through a couple of different research projects that informed the book and inform my digital leadership curriculum.

 

And through that, I have found what is needed for digital leadership in higher ed specifically is a personalized, values-based and purpose-driven approach that activates the influence each of us has in order to navigate change and build stronger relationships with our communities on and offline. And I know when I use this word influence, especially in internet terms, that can start to get a little hazy because we might think of Instagram influencers and that means we are being hashtag sponsored. And so in a leadership terminology, and again, there’s a whole chapter on leadership in the book, you’ll learn how influence is a positive thing. Even if it’s a small amount of people to a large, significant amount, like one might see an Instagram influencer, but you’re putting that influence to something very strategic, mission-driven, that has values behind it, and it’s committed to in order to make an impact. And this is where leadership comes in. It is the intent to leave a legacy.

 

In order to make these into more practical and tangible directions, there are five guiding principles, and I’m only going to give you the high level of those, because again, each chapter is designated to unpacking these. So those are change, connection, personalization, strategy, and legacy. And I found these guiding principles from my research on leaders in higher ed who are very active, engaged, and relational in digital spaces, as well as opportunities that I found that we needed to more clearly commit to.

 

So when we talk about change, and goodness, don’t we know all about that now, digital leaders have to be adaptable, accepting, and embracing and navigating through change in a lifelong learning mindset because social media especially is going to change whether we want it to or not. In change, a digital leader also has to be able to learn from, and with, others. They need others to teach tools, to learn tactics, and to get feedback.

 

The second guiding principle is connection. Connection is the reason why social media can be so magical. Digital leadership is built on a genuine pursuit of relationships and communities. And a lot of times that is done through the next guiding principle of digital leadership and that’s personalization. I sway away from using terms like personal or professional as those have so many different weights behind them. Our ability to show up as humans in a personalized way in digital spaces, we start to approach the calls to be genuine and authentic, where again, we are approaching a tool with a humanizing way in the way that we show up on those tools.

 

The fourth guiding principle of purpose driven digital leadership is strategy. We need leaders to have a clear yet flexible strategy that’s going to align, no surprise, with your purpose, your values, and yes, even your personality. And in higher education, there’s also a consideration of that strategy connecting back to your institution objectives. This is one finding I discovered in my research early on, and even recently that some of even the most public and well-known leaders in higher ed do not have a documented strategy.

 

But strategy, no matter what position you are, as we all can be leaders and influencers, documenting what your strategy is, especially for the energy of purpose values and personality can then be evaluated and amplified.

 

And then of course, the leadership lens is legacy. Digital leaders are committed to making real positive change, achieved through the influence relationship, no matter time, place, or space between a leader and their followers who all share a common purpose. And so those guiding principles, again, offer really tangible directions of where do I start and where do I assess where I am right now and where I want to be in the future.

 

But I also want to talk about, like the theme of this very podcast, the philosophy of the book that is the overarching belief and influence of the text. And that is heartware, and heartware is going to be the answer to the question, what is your why for leading online?

As you think about why you log on day after day and why you gravitate to certain platforms and why you post what you do or comment on certain users or share certain posts, it starts to inform a little bit of who you are and what’s important to you. And when we unpack the layers of human development, sociology, psychology, we start to see at our roots, we are here because we want to belong, to build relationships, to connect and find meaning, and make meaning.

 

So, as we break down this concept of heartware, let’s first start with other terms you might be familiar with like hardware. And that is the physical tech tools you use, like your laptop, your iPhone, your AirPods. Software is the platforms you use. And this could be social media platforms. It could be this very podcast or Spotify. And so heartware is your mission, your beliefs, and your values that are going to connect the hardware and software into the mission and the values and the goals that you have for your life and the impact that you want to make out into the world. And while this may sound quite straightforward, to be actually able to document it and say it and have the intent for it, especially giving that grace that it’s possible to do that on the internet, I thought it was very important.

 

And so right now I’m going to share some examples of digital leaders featured in the book who have this heartware approach to social media. And so, again, your heartware is your why for leading online. It’s discerned and activated by applying the five guiding principles of a purpose-driven digital leadership, which has change, connection, personalization, strategy, and legacy.

 

And so without further ado, a few of these leaders throughout higher ed, who I asked, what is your why for leading online. Peter Konwerski, he’s the Vice President of Student Life. He says, “We’re real people who are working hard on issues, and we strive to be open and engaged in the community. I want our students to know we aren’t just a big bureaucracy. We’re actually people here to help.”

 

Mamta Accapadi, Vice Provost for University Life at University of Pennsylvania, says, “Leading online allows us as educators to uplift the sacred stories of our students, helping them align their hopes and dreams with the opportunities to achieve those dreams.”

 

Martha Compton, Dean of Students at Concordia University Texas says, “It’s hugely important that students see themselves reflected online and to know that people can be warm, funny and flawed while still being successful leaders.

 

Sumun Pendakur, Chief Learning Architect at the Race and Equity Center at the University of Southern California, “To authentically role model a full life with all of its complications, including my politics, my family, friends, and my work.”

 

Kristen Abell, Interim Director of Student Affairs Communications at Virginia Tech writes, “I want to show people they are not alone in experiencing mental illness and provide support and resources to help them be successful.”

 

So I want to know what is your why for leading online, not just for being online. Making that intention, and reminding yourself of that strategy is significant. And now you can find everyone featured in the text and their responses to what their why is on the features page of the book website, which is josieahlquist.com/digitalleadership.

 

And I would love to know what your answer is, and if this is the first draft, it’s going to evolve, it’s going to expand. It’s going to become more clear. So tweet that out at me @JosieAhlquist and/or use that hashtag #DigLead. I’ll be collecting answers and including them on the book website as we go along.

 

So in this last part of the shorty episode, I want to share a few acknowledgements and thank yous, as well as read for you, the dedication to the book. Now this book journey started honestly about the same time as the podcast. And what’s also neat, if you’ve been listening to that podcast for some time, the very podcast episodes influenced and informed the book and the framework of digital leadership. As the researcher I am, I took those interviews and reviewed and coded them and used them as data to inform my work and the content of the book. But I also know when you crack open a book, especially the digital version, sometimes it already lands you on chapter one. And you just don’t think to scroll back to read the dedication or the acknowledgements.

 

So this is my podcast, and I’m going to read what I want to. So let me share with you the dedication page. This book is for my late grandpa, Straitor Clark, who despite receiving only a middle school education, insisted upon higher education for his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. He said, “Get your education, kid. Nobody can ever take that away from you.” For my sidekick business partner, best friend and husband, Lloyd Ahlquist, who cultivated and encouraged a life of creating, and for my parents, Mike and Janet Hutchinson, who would never ask for recognition, but deserve to be honored with a world record standing ovation. And when I read that at the book kickoff, there were a lot of alligator tears. And when I wrote it too, very, very neat to be able to reflect on and let those words pour out.

 

And next I’d like to share a little bit of the acknowledgements. I’m not going to read the full thing. I really would hope that you would check that out in the book. It’s also listed in a blog that I wrote about the book on my website, which I will also link in the show notes if you want to read the whole thing. So let me first thank my early book supporters, mentors, editors, and guides. Edlyn Pena, George McClennan, Jason Merryweather, Ed Cabellon, Liz Gross, Amma Marfo, Jennifer Keplinger, Kristen Abell, and Brian Bourke.

 

I also had a crew, which I’ve also talked about on a previous episode of the podcast about micro-digital communities, because I had my own little digital community on a platform called GroupMe, which I warmly referred to as hashtag TeamJosie who saw me through the realness, and when I mean the realness, I mean, I don’t want to post this on the internet, I just need some friends to carry me up right now. And that group was Kristen Abell, Ed Cabellon, Keith Edwards, Alexandra Froehlich, Meghan Grace, Liz Gross, Kathy Guthrie, Laura Pasquini, James Robilotta, Katie Ross, and Ana Rossetti-Sloan.

 

And to my family, to my friends, to my business team, I thank you. And last but not least, every single person who was featured throughout the book, there are dozens and dozens featured, and I’ve listed them all on the book website, like a yearbook. You can see them. You can connect with them quickly on platforms they are open to connections on and read their answers to what is their why for leading online. And again, you can find that at josieahlquist.com/digitalleadership.

 

In addition to reflecting and discerning and starting to articulate, what is your why for leading online, I also encourage you, whether you’ve purchased the book or have read the book yet, to join us in community as readers, learners, and leaders. That hashtag, #DigLead, can be used on any social media platform. And I’ll be searching for it for you to reflect on your answers as you read the book and as you go through your own digital leadership journey.

 

But as a community builder and knowing that the ROI of social media is relationships, I of course, had to create a community for this book. It’s called the Digital Leadership Network and hosted on a platform called Mighty Networks where you can learn and interact with me, the features of the book, and all other readers.

 

I also am kicking off a new livestream series this fall, Tuesdays at 1:00 PM Pacific time, 4:00 PM Eastern standard time, called #DigLead Book Club. And I will be inviting in folks featured in the book as well as other digital leaders in higher ed, so we can learn from them and learn together. And that’s going to be streaming on Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube, and Twitter. So check the notes of this episode for more info and again how to watch.

 

Dear listeners, and of course I would be remiss if I didn’t thank you for the support throughout the years for this podcast and this book.

 

Thank you so much for checking out this very special episode, celebrating the book launch, Digital Leadership in Higher Education. Please make sure to share it out with your friends, colleagues, and connections. If you enjoy this podcast, make sure you’re subscribed. And if you really like it, go give a little review on any of your favorite podcasting platforms.

 

I am so much open to connections. Again, the ROI of social media is relationships. So find me on all the socials, @JosieAhlquist and the podcast is just on Twitter, @JosieATPodcast. Remember the show notes and all those resources are found on my website, josieahlquist.com/thepodcast.

 

If you’re interested in learning more about my speaking and consulting work on digital engagement and leadership or this new book, you know where to find me, josieahlquist.com. Thank you again to our podcast sponsor Campus Sonar. Learn more about them at campussonar.com. I am sending out some very special book digital hugs, loves, and waves to whatever corner of the world you’re listening in from. This has been Josie and the Podcast.

 

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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