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Is it Possible to Study Leadership?

A report by Forbes detailing the recent data on leadership statistics reveals an alarming fact. Apparently, as many as 4 out of 10 tech leaders are failing – the highest failure rate in any essential industry. The reason for this is simple: about 32% of the leaders in this industry have reported that they never meet with managers to discuss or evaluate performance. In short, the tech industry is mostly focused on technical ability, and rarely puts any effort into actually developing its leaders. The results speak for themselves. On the other hand, some will argue that the likely cause of this failure is choosing the wrong people to lead in the first place. And indeed, there is evidence to support the idea that leadership is an inborn gift. A 2013 academic report via the University College London notes that people like Winston Churchill were born with qualities that led them to the highest positions of power and leadership. While this is true, the same report also explains that the ability to lead successfully cannot be attributed solely to a person’s natural talents. Rather, leadership is a “complex product of genetics and environmental influences.” In other words, while natural ability can provide the foundation for actual leadership and management positions, it’s just part of a much bigger picture. In the same article, Petra Wilton of the Chartered Management Institute has the perfect analogy: Leadership is like riding a bike. “Most people can ride a bicycle, but not everyone can be Olympic winners. It’s the same with management and leadership.” In short, it is absolutely possible to study how to become a leader, and there are a number of ways to do this. Just like any other skills, the ability to lead is best learned through practice. As John Childress of the Association for Talent Development explains, “experience is the best teacher,” especially when it comes to the social skills required to effectively lead and manage people. One key point he does put emphasis on is mindset: “learning leadership is akin to learning any other skill. Beyond knowledge of the subject, there must be the appetite to be a leader.” While the best way to study and actually become a leader is to willingly step into a position of leadership, being armed with the right theory and information is also a huge benefit. More and more organizations are realizing the value of leadership training and development, especially in ensuring that employees assigned to management positions can actually deliver what the job requires. This has been reflected in the type of courses now offered at degree level that focus on leadership qualities. The US Bureau of Labor Statistics according to Maryville University, believes that jobs requiring graduates with online leadership degrees will increase faster than other occupations. In management analysis and human resource management, growth is predicted to be 12% and 9%. Studying to become a leader at college or university, both through traditional or online courses, can allow you to take advantage of this growing demand. If you’re looking for more practical insights on the nuances of leadership and career management, check out our recent interview with Chris Cebollero who hosts The Ultimate Leadership Podcast. We talked about finding the right mentor, the differences between personal and professional development, tips for career management, and other useful information that can set you on the path to informed and effective leadership.

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