What is Three Dimensional Leadership? At it's core it is a new way of looking at, thinking about, and developing leaders. Let me give you the genesis of Three Dimensional Leadership:
The year is 2013, and I am teaching a leadership course at Fresno State. I have developed the syllabus/curriculum over the previous 10 years. Every year, I would spend a class walking students through a history of leadership theory; from "Great Man" and "trait" approaches to today's more modern "reciprocal" approaches. When I finished the discussion, I always asked; "50 years from now, what new theories around leadership will we be talking about in the classroom?"
Every year, students struggled to answer this question, but on this particular day, students in the classroom engaged in a critical dialogue. We talked about how leadership would be discussed in mediums not yet imagined. We engaged and discussed how online, in their digital spaces, "great man" and "trait" approaches to leadership were winning the day. They shared that basically, who your parents were (socio-economically), and what traits you had (technologically) are what determined leadership and power in digital spaces. We discussed the critical need to move the ball forward online and engage in leadership in this virtual dimension.
We started applying leadership theories to digital spaces. What does the social change model look like in the digital realm? What does congruence look like? What about commitment? Controversy with civility?
Then we spent some time discussing the difference between online congruence (having a professional digital identity separate from a personal digital identity) and the congruence between an online profile and an identity in your face to face interactions.
Thus became the genesis of the concept of "3D Leadership." The concept is simple. We accept Leaders are "made, not born." We teach this topic to students on college campuses across the country. Why don't we teach students how to lead in digital spaces? Why don't we teach administrators how to do this?
Some great work was being developed by others in the field (Dr. Josie Ahlquist is one of the pioneers). In my realm, I have been engaging and discussing these three dimensions of leadership:
The First Dimension is Leadership as we know and love. It's Chickering. It's Sanford. It's Astin. It's Relational Leadership model. Most college admins understand this dimension of leadership and it's where they feel most competent and safe.
The Second Dimension is the push of our culture - to engage in digital spaces. It's taking these leadership concepts from the first dimension, and it is applying them digitally. Here's the interesting piece. Our students understand this dimension a lot more than we do as seasoned professionals. They understand bitcoin. They understand social media. We don't. This is a scary dimension for many of the educators on our campuses. This is where the push is.
But here's the problem. A lot of the communication has been around "replacing" the first dimension with the second. Those with power in our field believe they are being asked to "start over" with their competency level. Most of the push is to really move beyond face to face leadership principles and solely engage in digital leadership. This just replaces one flat view of leadership with another.