My Notebook

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#DesignForward Day 14 – Embracing Leadership in Instructional Design

A Decade of Growth in Organizational Leadership

It’s been over ten years since I first assessed my leadership capabilities using the practitioner-to-leader matrix. As a doctoral candidate in 2012, I recognized strengths in areas like resource management but wanted to improve critical research skills. My subsequent immersion in senior-level coursework helped me develop those competencies and grow confidence leading complex initiatives.

However, I realize now my core abilities stemmed from successfully spearheading major projects even without formal authority. Implementing technological systems and founding an academic program relied on leveraging influence, strategizing execution, and motivating stakeholder adoption. Though I didn’t see myself as a leader back then, those key experiences built foundations for significant responsibility today.

Over the past decade, I progressed far beyond those early milestones into genuine organizational leadership. I cultivate innovation and drive change initiatives focused on elevating instructional design. My proposals have shaped major restructuring efforts as we work to surpass traditional learning models with online learning and courses.

Of course, with greater leadership comes greater accountability and challenges to overcome. I continue reflecting on struggles, feedback, and best practices research to enrich perspectives. But each new trial strengthens my resolve and commitment to excellence. I’m thrilled to see my passions make substantial impacts, thanks to a long journey of personal and professional evolution. Though leadership takes many forms, authenticity and care for people should remain constants driving meaningful progress.

Original version of the post below was written for a doctoral course in December of 2012 –my final semester of course work before completing my comprehensive exam Jan-Mar 2013. 

A New Understanding of Organizational Leadership

My journey as a Fractional Chief Learning Officer has led me to new realizations about my role in organizational leadership. Upon completing the practitioner to leader matrix (DeBlois, 2005), it became evident that my professional trajectory has predominantly encompassed mid-level leadership qualities, with a blend of senior-level skills. This self-assessment has been a pivotal moment in recognizing my growth and potential in the field.

Experiences That Shaped My Path

My career has afforded me diverse responsibilities in resource management. Leading the implementation of SharePoint in my previous college and participating in the transition from traditional interactive television (ITV) systems to CISCO TelePresence systems were milestones that underscored my leadership capabilities. Additionally, initiating a computer science program, right from its inception to execution, was an enriching experience that honed my strategic product suite design and planning skills.

I resonated with DeBlois’s interviewee who didn’t see themselves as a leader – a sentiment I shared until recent years. My self-perception was that of a dreamer, yearning for innovation in my classroom, often perceived as the one with challenging proposals. Over time, I’ve learned the power of aspiring for the ideal and seeking compromise, a valuable lesson in leadership.

Struggles, Insights, and Growth

Critical thinking and leveraging research in problem-solving have been two areas of focus for me, often challenging the status quo. This realization steered my decision to focus on instructional design for my PhD The course has been instrumental in helping me understand the importance of grounding decisions in research and course design. I have been committed to enhancing my recall of critical literature and authors in the field, while putting them into context through experience and real-world examples.

Moving Forward into Leadership

The need for transitioning into a leadership role became more apparent as I found myself increasingly involved in key organizational conversations. As my past organizations under go significant restructuring, it’s gratifying to see my ideas reflected in the proposed changes.

Preparations for the Future

Looking ahead, my focus will be on deepening my understanding of leadership within instructional design. I plan to:

  • Continue exploring literature on leadership in instructional design.
  • Proactively volunteer for leadership roles, making my aspirations clear.
  • Immerse myself in extensive reading and research.
  • Advocating for Instructional Design

Observing the struggles in my organization due to the lack of a clear instructional development process, I am motivated to advocate for the value of instructional design, especially in the realm of higher education. As online education faces scrutiny, I am committed to ensuring that it not only matches but surpasses the quality of face-to-face learning environments.

2024 Update: so much of this section is still accurate; however, my focus has transitioned, along with my audience, more toward entrepreneurs and course creators, thereby, it is centered more on the Customer Experience by way of Customer, Learning, and Community Experience Design for Digital Products and Courses.


My path has been one of continuous learning and evolving leadership. The journey, filled with challenges and insights, has fortified my resolve to drive excellence in instructional design and online education. As I navigate the complexities of my dissertation and further my research, I am confident that my contributions will significantly impact the field.


DeBlois, P. B. (2005). Leadership in instructional technology and design: An interview. EDUCAUSE Quarterly, 28(4), 12–17.