Everyone is talking about them and resting the future of the country on them. Young leaders in India are not only pressured to handle their own professions but also to make it big and lead the nation in their own right. The foremost example that crosses one’s mind is Rahul Gandhi. Born with a legacy in politics (five generations after all), young and dynamic, he is now paving his way to Prime Ministership. The question fl oating around is – is he ready to lead one of the largest democracies of the world yet? We’re guessing you already know the mixed opinions that exist on the topic and won’t bore you with the details.
What we intend to find out is that can leadership be taught? Or is one inherently born with the quality? It is often said that this is the oldest (and perhaps the most meaningless) debate on the topic – ‘are leaders born or are they made?’ It is meaningless because the truth lies somewhere in between.
The answer, however, according to many, is simple. Yes, leadership like all skills can be taught. The extensive material available on the topic is clear, and there are a variety of training materials and programmes in the market. Also, if we assume that leadership can be taught, we have to assume that there are teachers who have the quality of leadership, understand it and can impart it to others. The Hindu scriptures are a rich source of material on leaders and leadership. Chanakya’s Arthashashtra, which dates back approximately to 300 BC, is great proof of the leadership teachings that were imparted in early India. Even global literature has extensive examples of leadership early on. Confucius wanted to set a proper law and channel of communication between leaders and followers. Plato talks about an ideal republic with kings offering wise and cautious leadership to the public. He also set up Th e Academy – a school for leadership in ancient Greece in 387 BC.
Currently, leadership is a much taught and researched discipline in colleges, especially in b-schools. A huge chunk of leadership education is dedicated to teaching styles and techniques. A lot that is taught under this topic is in fact not leadership but management. Th ere is no denying the possibility that a person who learns and even implements what is taught still fails at being a good leader. But that is a risk that one ought to take.
“Every year we send our staff for development programmes – in both leadership and team building. We count is as an investment, since ours is a very hierarchical profession,” says Solicitor Purvi Asher, who is a partner in her law fi rm. “You will be amazed at the lack of skills that we observe in some law school graduates, but they can reach high positions due to their experience and knowledge. For such personnel, there is no other option but to teach ‘leadership’, and it does help. Th ey can be pushed in to a direction they may never have thought of. And even if they do not become leaders overnight, they are able to lead their subordinates much better aft er such sessions,” she adds.
Professors across fields cannot agree more. “In every sphere of life, skill-building has become necessary. So also leadership development,” says Rajeshwar Upadhaya, a visiting faculty at Thunderbird, Th e American Graduate School of International Management, USA, and at the Indian School of Busienss, Hyderabad (ISB), where he teaches the well-received Leadership Development Programme and a specialised elective titled ‘Leadership Insights from World Literature’. Upadhaya also believes that world history and Indian mythology are full of examples of those who displayed leadership qualities without being explicitly taught. “These heroes had no choice, sine their lineage and position demanded it,” he says talking about kings and princes. However, he adds that in modern times, there is no such thing as kings and princes. Thus, leadership cannot merely be a function of position, it has to be developed early on. Upadhaya is also of the opinion that many people do have a natural fl air for leading. Their energy matches the basic leadership qualities and hence, may turn out to be much better leaders than others.
Presently, many b-schools across the country impart leadership training in some form or the other to the incoming and outgoing students. At ISB, all students of the Post Graduate Programme (PGP) go through the Leadership Development Programme (LDP) at the start of the course. It is a diff erent concept since the programme is based on 360-degree feedback and introspection. The objective is to develop a spirit of teamwork and leadership. This is done via lectures, discussions, workshops and group sessions. Essential skills for leadership such as effective listening and communication, team building and problem solving are inculcated.
For those out there who are keen on becoming leaders, is there a leadership school that teaches this stuff ? Of course there is. Not one, but many. So, if you don’t want to wait for your institute or your work place to offer you a session in leadership, you can enroll in one yourself. But can you learn all of it from a school? We’re not sure. In the final analysis, the vast majority would rather study the life of leaders than learn the lessons of leadership in the world. Which is why leadership is often taught, but so rarely learned.
THE ESSENTIALS TAUGHT
The essential components of leadership have remained more or less constant:
PROGRAMMES IN LEADERSHIP
The School of Leadership, Bangalore
- Strategic Leadership Program (SLP)
- Leadership Enhancement Program (LEP)
- New Managers Excellence Program
- Creative Leadership Program
- Young Leadership Program (YLP)
Common Purpose, Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai
- Common Purpose runs courses which give people the skills, connections and inspiration to become better leaders, both at work and in society.
Pragati Leadership, Pune
- Eight different programmes targetted at different audiences depending on needs and purpose
- Executive coaching
- Leading through emotional intelligence
Volume 1 Issue 3