Can leadership be taught?

132Can leadership be taught? Do you need formal training to be an effective leader?

Or is leadership an Attitude, personality trait, a talent? One that you are born with perhaps.

The jury is out on this! Let’s take a look at what academics and business people say about the issue.



Peter Drucker, a respected business thinker, believes leaders may be born, and also that leadership can be learnt.

Harold S. Geneen an American businessman who was President of the ITT Corporation., says that Leadership cannot be taught, it can only be learned.

Mark Saner, President of Canada’s most prominent social-marketing agency, believes that leadership can be taught, as it is a skill, but is not sure that leadership can be learned.

It would appear that leadership, a rare and highly prized skill amongst employers, is not learned easily or well.

Many people develop the beginnings of leadership skills as they grow up. Maybe through their community taking the lead at social events. Or taking part in sport as team captains, at school or college, or running drama and debating societies.

Historically, Management and Executive education has focused on business skills, and not on Leadership. Executives are shown tools to enable them to Manage, but how can they be offered the chance to learn how to Lead in a classroom situation?

So most executive’s leadership development is on the job, and this can mean that their Leadership skills are honed almost by chance.

Leadership is a combination of talent, ability and character. Leaders must have the courage to create the vision, challenge the establishment, take risks, make and admit mistakes.

Professor Riggio, Ph.D. points out that if you accept that leadership can be learnt, and the most powerful lessons come from experience, then it boils down to how we learn from experience

The ability to learn from experience is in itself a skill. But gaining an understanding of the complex factors that affect leadership give an executive a chance to analyse, understand and deal with their own leadership challenges

So a classroom based course in Leadership probably won’t make you a better leader right away, but understanding the concepts covered in the course can potentially increase the rate you learn from the “on the job” experiences you have during and after the course.

In the next few modules we will look at some leadership theories to help us understand what leadership is. And we will consider what skills a leader has or needs. We will also look at how you can hone and develop those skills. In turn this will help you to improve your leadership skills.

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