Learning to Lead: A Look at the Value of Leadership Studies

John F. Kennedy once said “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”

Leadership is an attribute that is hard to define, but easy to spot when present. The iconic leader Jack Welch, former chairman and CEO of General Electric Co., said, “Good business leaders create a vision, articulate the vision, passionately own the vision and relentlessly drive it to completion.”

Other attributes commonly ascribed to effective leaders are; honest, forward-looking, competent, intelligent, inspiring, socially responsible and of course, good communicators. Schools of leadership, as well as private companies are in agreement that these skills can be taught. In other words, leaders are made, not born.

Teaching leadership spans the entire spectrum from academic study, either in traditional or online masters program, to in-house company training programs. Some of these programs emphasize book learning and study of leadership. Others emphasize hands-on skills, training leaders in the work environment with the aid of mentors and small groups. And there are still more programs which seek to challenge leaders, placing them outside of their normal work-day environments, with orienteering workshops or interactive games.

While the techniques vary, the goal is the same, to create the next generation of leaders for the future, in industry, education and non-profits; leaders with the knowledge and vision to build the organization in good times and steer through the difficulty of bad times.

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Some common leadership trends voiced by the business community are; the need for diversity, especially with an understanding of other cultures as globalization continues, as well as the need for womens’ voices in the top echelons of management. Benchmark found, in their recent Leadership Development Trends Report, the following post-recession trends.

  • There is more pressure now than before to prepare leaders who can weather the storm and navigate their companies successfully through the turbulence.
  • The most notable theme throughout the survey was the importance of building bench strength.
  • They highlighted weaknesses in the ability to think strategically, lead change, create a vision, and rally others around that vision.
  • The use of leaders as teachers has become a best practice that is growing in popularity.

There are an ever growing number of public and private universities and colleges with leadership classes and degrees. While almost every MBA program has a leadership component, the latest trend is an interdisciplinary approach, to build leadership skills in all academic and professional fields. There are also a plethora of private programs which are highly effective, both for the individuals and for businesses which desire a leadership training program.

For anyone seeking to enhance their career prospects, a leadership program may be invaluable. And for businesses seeking to improve performance, improving the leadership skills of their own staff may be the critical component that can lead to success.

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