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Leadership at D2L – Lead by Example


**Welcome to a series of posts about what leadership looks like at D2L. Here at D2L, we recently shared the leadership competencies/behaviours that we know are required to transform the way the world learns. We considered both business and client goals and needs, and our drive to continue to disrupt the world of learning for K-12, Higher Ed and Corporate Learning. The competencies we decided upon aren’t new. They aren’t rocket science. They don’t come with cute little sayings. But we believe in them. And know they will set the stage for people to do the best work of their lives here at D2L all while helping to make learning more engaging, accessible and inspiring.**

The first one I want to cover? It’s a “roots” one! Leading by Example.

So here’s the thing (and I don’t want to freak you out but….), PEOPLE ARE WATCHING/LISTENING. And your ability to influence as a leader is intricately enmeshed with how small the gap is between what you say and what you do.

 Example is not the main thing in influencing others, it is the only thing.

Albert Scheweitzer

There is a lot of talk in leadership about how critical it is for a leader to DWYSYWD (do what you say you will do). Close the gap between what you say or ask of others and what you practice in your day to day. Anyone familiar with Jim Kouzes and Barry Posner’s: Credibility: How Leaders Gain and Lose it, Why People Demand It will be familiar with this.

Truly effective leaders take this a step further. Yes, naturally, it’s important to close the individual gap between what you say and what you do. This demonstrate alignment between what you personally espouse and what you do.

The best leaders kick it up a notch by including what the company and the team espouses as values into the DWYSYWD equation.

What does that look like? Yes, a solid leader ensures little space between what they say and what they do.

An EXCEPTIONAL leader (say…..a D2L leader!) leads with that bigger picture alignment in mind. What do WE value? What did WE say we would do? What are WE working towards?

At D2L, the connection between our leaders (formal and informal alike) closing the gap between what we say and do AND our roles in transforming the way the world learns is clear.

We don’t ask others to do something we wouldn’t or don’t do.

We ‘go first’ so to speak.

We model ‘what good looks like.”

The goal is to align our leadership behaviours with the company’s values and expectations in order to create leadership integrity. We are consistently aware that the space between what we say and do lives not only within our individual leadership and words but within the company’s values and cultural space. And we do this even during the most challenging of times- (perhaps more so during those challenging times).

As Dharmesh Shah (Founder and CTO at HubSpot) suggests of formal leaders-

 Mission statements, value statements and culture codes are fine, but if you are not seen as a living embodiment of your culture, then all those efforts will be wasted. You should be seen as of the culture, never above the culture.

 Soooo….Let’s Work on It!

What can you do to work on the Lead by Example competency? Start with a simple audit (a la Kouzes and Posner):

  • Consider your calendar (Where do you spend your time? With whom do you spend your time?)
  • How do you respond to critical incidents?
  • What stories do you choose to share and retell?
  • What language do you use to support and lead your people?
  • How and what do you choose to measure?
  • And how and what do you choose to reward/recognize?

What do you notice? Is the gap between what we say we care about and what stories you continue to retell big? Is the gap between what we say we care about and how you respond to critical incidents big? Is the gap between what we say we care about and where you spend your time big?

Choose one element of the audit and commit to closing the gap over the next month.

  1. Pay attention to where the gap exists
  2. Consider why the gap exists
  3. Ask for and be open to continued feedback to improve your ability to Lead by Example
  4. Rinse and repeat

Good luck! The credibility that exists when the say/do gap is small is SO fundamental to effective leadership. Anything that comes after is impacted. So start here.

***We have set Leading by Example as one of the necessary leadership competencies here at D2L. We are humble enough to know that simple saying something doesn’t make it so. We recognize and celebrate those who do it well. We tell the stories of what good looks like. We are embedding the competencies into our onboarding programs. You’ll see them in our job descriptions. We’re developing learning opportunities to allow these capabilities to be strengthened in our formal and informal leaders alike. We continue to work at holding each other accountable by increasing our opportunities to provide each other regular and in the moment feedback. Sometimes we succeed and some days…..Meh….Sometimes this stuff is easy. Sometimes, it requires a bit more bravery. But it’s worth it all of the time.***

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