Villanova Friday: Week 1: Understanding Your Leadership Style

Villanova Friday logoI’m taking a course with Villanova University called Maximising IS/IT Team Effectiveness. This is Week 1, and already I’m overwhelmed.

The first time I log in, there are already messages on the message board, documents to download and entries on the class roster. I can’t make the video lectures work despite reading the help files and running their browser check application. Finally, I give up, and download the videos. If I didn’t feel behind already, I might have contacted the tech support team at the university. But I feel as if I’m already running late with the course material and downloading is the best choice.

Villanova has offered the videos through a web link (and it’s this that doesn’t work for me), through downloads, and on a CD that arrived in the post a fortnight ago. In the post I also got a workbook containing all the slides, and a copy of IT Leadership Alchemyir?t=wwwelizabharr 21&l=as2&o=2&a=013009403X by Lou Russell and Jeff Feldman. Finally, I got a small, lined exercise book, the kind I haven’t used since I was 16. It makes me feel like I really have gone back to school.

An online course

The course is offered 100% online, which means I can do it from London at a time that suits me. I don’t even need to speak to my tutors, but given that they are available it seems silly to miss the opportunity to interact with them. However, the online weekly discussions in the Villanova chat room are scheduled at 1.30am UK time, and although I often work late into the night, even I’m in bed by then. Fortunately the transcripts are going to be available – next week I’ll take a look at those.

The course is assessed by a number of online multiple choice tests. I want to see how easy these are, as that’s a sign of how in-depth the lectures and course material will be. I take the first test, without having done any reading or listening to any of the lectures. I fail. That’s a good sign. I also note that you can take the tests as often as you like, so while the pass mark is 70% you can keep going until you have got full marks, if you are bothered about that sort of thing.

The lectures

Lou Russell, co-author of the Alchemy book, takes the lectures. This week there are five. Having downloaded the videos, I note that you can’t actually tell how long they run for. The ‘welcome to the course’ video is only 8 minutes. This is another good sign. I was expecting to have to sit at my PC watching videos for hours.

screenshot of video lecture from Villanova
Lou giving a video lecture

Lou on camera is surprising personable and involving. She discusses general concepts and beliefs about what makes a leader, setting the scene for what we are going to learn. The course covers:

  • Managing yourself: your personal style
  • Managing others: influencing and communicating
  • Managing groups of people in a team
  • Managing outside the project boundaries through stakeholder management

Grace Hopper gets a mention as a leader in the IS/IT arena, and a company that laid off a member of staff by text message while he was at a conference gets a mention as how not to do it. “IT leadership is really about realising the potential that is already there, which is really different to fixing bad people or broken people,” she says.

Lou introduces exercises, gets me to stop the video and work out the answers, and then talks through the solution. This week the course material is about developing my own leadership style, and we do a behavioural self-assessment. I turn out as a mix of styles, and while I would like to fit neatly in a box for the purposes of doing my homework, secretly I’m glad that I’m more complicated than that.

Disclosure: Villanova have provided me access to the course at no charge in exchange for me writing about it.