Leadership development: A new mandate for the academic world

There should be no doubt that education plays a major role in the development of human beings and the evolution of a society. But education alone will not drive a person to its maximum productivity and capabilities. Taking from the words of President John F. Kennedy on his 1963 address in Dallas, Texas, “leadership and learning are indispensable to each other”. Following our series about advanced leadership, this second part explores the role of education in the development of advanced leadership skills and how this is intricately intertwined with professional growth.

The Academy of Management Learning and Education, a professional association for management and organizational scholars, captures the idea as part of its online publication ‘How Can Business Schools Develop Leaders?’. The Academy underscores that “becoming a leader is not just a matter of acquiring a body of knowledge and practicing a requisite set of skills. It entails deeper personal work.” At Integro Success we agree with this view. Leadership education alone does not grant a person automatic access to a level of professional success. In fact, leadership is not something you can learn from a textbook or a practical course. Education can help to lay down the foundation, integrate and understand leadership concepts, and strengthen other professional capabilities. However, it takes engagement, dedication and integration of real-life experiences to put that knowledge into practice, and ultimately to test, acquire, develop and polish leadership skills.

This does not to mean to imply that education should take a secondary role when it comes to professional growth and leadership development. To the contrary, the argument is that in the process of educating and forming the professionals and business people of the future, the academic world should adopt a customized and adaptive approach that fosters the development of advanced leadership skills. Citing Jonathan P. Doh from his paper ‘Can Leadership Be Taught? Perspectives from Management Educators’ (Academy of Management Learning & Education 2, no. 1, 2003, 54-67), “leadership education, like leadership itself, must rely on heuristic approaches such as mentoring, coaching, patterning, and trial-and-error experience”. We argue that the approach should go even further, with a “real-life” and “hands-on” method derived from a clear self-understanding of personal strengths and weaknesses.

In the end, what should be intended by any educational program with a leadership goal in mind is the formation of a well-rounded professional ready to go into the market not only with the knowledge and degree required by the system, but also with the set of skills that will help the individual navigate the challenges of professional growth.

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