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Leadership Paradoxes in a Time of Disruption in an Educational Company

Leadership Paradoxes in a Time of Disruption in an Educational Company

Why your employees won’t be with you in a time of disruption? Change is one of the management elements needed in corporate and personal life settings for desired goals and objectives realisation. In spite of this, experience has shown that people do resist change. The resistance becomes obvious when the change makers or agents are perceived by the followers or change implementers as working for their own benefits.

In our consulting activities with businesses and individuals in education sector, we have realised that making strategic leadership happens is always a herculean task when unexpected forces struck and disrupt processes and procedures for value creation and capturing. The disruption is huge on businesses that primarily use physical platforms for creating and delivering value to different categories of learners and corporate establishments. Appropriation of ‘best practice’ for aggregating and deploying staff to the existing roles and responsibilities are tough, indicating challenges in using strategic resources for value creation and capturing.

At the early stage of the disruption and as it bites harder, it was difficult to integrate existing processes with the emerging processes [evolved as emergent strategies] towards value creation and delivery. It was also obvious that reordering existing organisational structure to align with the emerging needs of the stakeholders remains problematic. Instead of face-to-face communication being used before the disruption, staff at the corporate and business levels have to adopt a number of other approaches that made understanding of messages difficult.

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The leadership of our case was forced to sack some staff when the e-learning or online teaching approach was employed. Salaries and other remunerations of the remaining employees were reduced to cater for the shortfalls in the participant enrolment for courses. Roles and responsibilities of the remaining staff were also increased. Some staff were assigned to more than three tasks in a day. This led to stressing of the personnel and led to some health challenges. In the course of making a new leadership approach happens, the management and employees at the corporate level made some leadership paradoxes.

Emerged Leadership Paradoxes in Our Case Study

The mission of our case [studied company] is to promote a culture of continuous learning among professionals and students who have interest in project management and related fields. Specially, the company was established with the strategic intent of solving unskilled work force problem and providing affordable training for individuals willing to broaden their scope.

When the heat of the disruption was high, the management was unable to implement its mission effectively. From the regular learners to non-regular learners, the case company did not properly inform them of changes in learning processes and new fees. With this it is glaring that the company could not work based on its mission that says “providing affordable training for individuals willing to broaden their scope.”

Giving much information at a time or within few seconds while creating and handling new processes for teaching and learning also made employees perplexed. At a point some employees created unofficial groups, discussing some issues such as technologies that should be used or not and needs that were supposed to be addressed by their leaders.

In our experience, when it was clear that the members of the unofficial groups cannot cope with the new changes being introduced, the concept of “Us versus Them” emerged and its practicability was ensured with the low strategies for managing emotional intelligence of the employees. For instance, when they lacked the required technological knowledge of co-creating new processes and the management failed to train them using a number of strategies such as Quality Circle, they felt being sidelined and perceived as opportunity for the management to lay them off.

From our experience, we discovered the leadership of the company employed trait, situational and transformational leadership approaches. This is quite understandable considering the old tradition of using the approaches in during crises. Experiences of the 2016 economic recession and global financial meltdown of 2008 are still fresh in the memory of many business leaders.

Therefore, the approaches would be rightly considered by any C-Executive. The CEO demonstrated that he understands how to determine leadership issues driven by unexpected situations and proffer appropriate solutions. The failure to bridge the digital knowledge gap among the employees was the main negative impact of the adopted leadership approaches.

Mitigating Paradoxes in Making a New Leadership Happens Amidst Disruption

An integrated leadership approach, which entails appropriation of transformational-transactional and normalisation process remain the alternatives to the elimination of challenges experienced by the company. This approach has a high tendency of delivering more outcomes than what the current approaches delivered to the organisation. The employed approaches have over the years been described as being in crisis. Therefore, they ought not have been considered as the best by the organisation.

Having transformation and transaction mindsets is a sure way of carrying every member of the organisation along and also help the participants in having less cost structure while receiving lectures through the digital platform. The approach would have also assisted the participants in paying less for the courses. Employing transformation-transactional approach, including normalisation process would have added a number of qualities, which are quite different from those associated with the leadership approaches used by the management of the company.


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1 THOUGHT ON Leadership Paradoxes in a Time of Disruption in an Educational Company

  1. Interesting perspective. However, communication is usually the key to buy-in under any change environment, which is always the case. Organisations constantly evolve and employees are, or should be, well aware of this. Where then, does it all go wrong? Opacity! Management needs to continue to communicate the scenarios… both “best” and “worse” case… you never know whether the solution to the change challenge lies within (an employee just might be that “genie in the bottle”)… my musings…

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