Source: NYTimes, Apr 2015
Is leadership an emergent quality, both situational and context-specific? Or is it something you can actually teach? That is, can you be a leader without ever leading something? Business schools insist you can.
In his 2007 history of the M.B.A., “From Higher Aims to Hired Hands,” Rakesh Khurana, dean of Harvard College and a professor of leadership development, delineated the various pedagogical approaches.
Most lie along a spectrum, with explicit knowledge and theory on one end and skill and technique on the other. Kenan-Flagler at the University of North Carolina, for example, leans heavily on sociology and psychology in constructing a “scientific” approach to the task. Kellogg, Wharton at the University of Pennsylvania and Booth at the University of Chicago, on the other hand, emphasize role-playing and team-building exercises to develop leadership experience.
A third approach involves a deep dive into one’s own values and ideals, with the ultimate goal to be an “authentic” enough leader that others will march to the tune you’re playing. According to one course description at Harvard, authentic leaders “exhibit high standards of integrity, take responsibility for their actions, and are guided by enduring principles rather than short-term experience.”
Leadership development, Dr. Khurana says, is “a personal journey.” Most schools incorporate all three approaches, addressing the tangible skills of leadership — the ability to work in teams, influence others, manage conflict and communicate.