So, can be taught?
Jay Conger, executive director of the University of Southern California’s Leadership Institute, had his doubts. He embarked on a two-year study to find out.
Conger decided that it takes dogged persistence to become a leader, not a joy ride down the rapids, as some programs would have you believe. He breaks down leadership training into four components:
- Personal growth. The basic idea: “If you can jump off this cliff, imagine what you can do back at the office.” This piece is most useful for those lucky few with some kind of job security, so they can learn to push boundaries. That, after all, is what leaders do: challenge the status quo, take risks and mobilize followers.
- Skill-building. The beauty of this approach is its practical lessons. For instance, if three volunteers offer to lead separate groups, one may learn that she needs to involve her group in strategizing so they don’t become bored and angry.
- Feedback. If 30 people rate you as a leader and all 30 say you don’t listen well, that should tell you something. The fact is, none of us can fully see ourselves. But with feedback, we can modify our behavior.
Remember, though, that if you come away with three areas needing improvement, you’ll be drawn to the one that’s easiest to implement, not necessarily the most important.
- Conceptual awareness. This just means learning the concepts that separate leaders from bosses: such as caring about employees, setting high standards and customizing rewards. They’re important but, alone, they’re not enough.
—Adapted from “Can We Really Train Leadership?” Jay Conger, strategy + business.