“Flipped” Leadership

There has been a lot written in the press and on blog posts recently about the ‘flipped classroom’.  For the most part, what has been written refers to the world of education, however, the concept is equally applicable to the workplace as more organisations realise the importance of informal learning and adopt the 70:20:10 model as a means to achieving effective performance support.

The purpose of this week’s chat is NOT to discuss the benefits or otherwise of ‘flipped learning’ although that would be a really interesting topic for future discussion.  So if any of you would like to share your views and write a guest blog, we would love to hear from you!

“Flipped” Leadership – another buzzword or a catalyst for innovation and change?

This week’s chat is about “Flipped” Leadership.  What exemplifies it? How will traditional concepts of leadership need to change and adapt so that organisations can reap the benefits and rewards of ‘flipped learning’? As learning and development and education professionals, how do we need to change our approach so that Leaders have the skills to allow organisations to grow and flourish in a world where sharing knowledge is rapidly becoming more powerful than being the owner of knowledge?

Let’s talk the same language

Before we start, let’s get a common understand what ‘flipped’ means.  In the UK, if someone says you have ‘flipped’ it’s generally not particularly complimentary.  In this context, sombody has become angry or cross about a topic, has made that frustration  known to everybody around them and it sometimes results in blind rage.   More recently, ‘flipping’ has been very negatively associated with politics.  There has been much talk in the press of MPs ‘flipping’ their homes in order to be able to claim additional expenses.  This is not the kind of ‘flipping’ we are talking about – we are talking about turning leadership upside down.

To help us understand this, we have a guest post from Bob Harrison. Bob has a wealth of experience in learning both in the corporate and education sectors.   He established Support for Education and Training (SET) in 1996, a former College Vice-Principal and a Governor of an FE College, Bob is the inaugural Chair of the recently established Teaching Schools New Technology Advisory Board. So what does Bob have to say about ‘flipping’?

We have the “flipped” classroom but what can it teach us about “flipped” leadership?

In recent times it has been popular in education circles to speak of an approach to learning commonly known as the “flipped” classroom. 

This pedagogical approach is predicated on a fundamental re-appraisal of the role of the teacher. There is no doubt that the Industrial age shaped the classroom, the teaching style, assessment practice and the place of the teacher at the front of the class as the “source of all knowledge”.

How times have changed!

Now pupils and students have the world of knowledge at their fingertips in the browser in their pockets and the recent open source developments like Udacity, Coursera and the Khan Academy suggest that the industrial model of pedagogy is no longer (if it ever was?) appropriate.

This challenge to schools and colleges is illustrated by the following:

CBS Video on Khan Academy – http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-18560_162-57393391/khan-academy-model-for-future-of-u.s-education/

Sugata Mitra TED SOLE – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ps8MwyJH8Zo

Paolo Blikstein – http://news.stanford.edu/thedish/?p=16001

So what, if anything, can the flipped classroom teach us about leadership…can it too be “flipped”?  Can we distil some of the key principles of this approach to learning and transfer them to the principles of leadership?  Are there tensions between this approach and accountability or is the “flipped” approach just another form of “distributed” leadership?

Contact details: Email: BobharrisonSET@aol.com Twitter: @bobharrisonset

So where does that take us?

Bob has pointed us to some interesting resources and those of us who work in Learning and Development are seeing similar changes and challenges as colleagues who work in education.

Employees who want to learn have access to an almost infinite amount of resources…all they have to do is ‘Google’ it and they are presented with lots of links that provide endless amounts of information and learning opportunities.  If employees use social networks like Twitter and LinkedIn they have personal learning networks and can ask those they trust for advice on the subjects they are interested in.

So in this world of connected learning, how does the leadership team direct effort so that it improves both individual and operational performance?  In the industrial age that Bob initially described, whether that be in the world of education or in the workplace, leaders in the organisation were the ‘font of knowledge’ and having that knowledge gave them positions of power. Some things haven’t changed, leaders are still tasked with improving performance to deliver business benefits, however if employees have got access to lots of information and learning, the industrial hierarchical model of leadership will struggle to survive.

Flipping Marvellous!

‘Flipped’ leadership implemented effectively with vision and support has the potential to empower staff and literally turn the situation on its head.  What better example to illustrate this than Erik Wahl’s presentation at the Learning Solutions Conference in Orlando, Florida this week?  Towards the end of his keynote, Erik turned his back to the audience and started to paint.  He continued to talk to the audience about what he was doing while he was working, however,  the image he was creating in front of everybody didn’t seem to make much sense…even when he stood back and let everybody see the finished piece, it still made little sense….until he flipped it!

Erik had painted an image of Steve Jobs…except he had painted it upside down and it only made sense to the audience when it was flipped!  His message to us all is that sometimes it’s only when you literally ‘flip’ the way you work you are able to see the bigger picture and are able to open your eyes to innovation and creativity.

Some additional thoughts on ‘Flipping’

EmergingEdTech – K Walsh, with guest blog by Louis Malenica – Enabling the Flipped Classroom with Evolving Software Solutions

Six Sigma, Ken Leeson – Lean Taking Root: It Depends on Culture and Leadership

Chief Learning Officer – Getting Executives on Social Media Boosts Leadership Development


Q1) What does ‘flipped’ leadership mean to you? Is it more than ‘distributed leadership’?

Q2) What lessons can leaders learn from the ‘flipped’ classroom?

Q3) What benefits would implementing ‘flipped’ leadership bring to learning and performance support?

Q4) What are the specific organisational challenges to flipping leadership?

Q5) As learning professionals, what positive steps can we take to ‘flip’ leadership in our own organisations?

2 thoughts on ““Flipped” Leadership

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