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Leadership Programs - What Would be Useful!

Knowing all the theories and taking courses in "leadership" by itself will not advance you one nanometer towards being a "good" leader. It is not a standard part of Leadership Programs to have you go through an assessment process to help determine whether you really want to be a leader or whether you should be one, despite your desires. The theories may be there, but only in a partial way. They are like the cars sitting on a railroad track with no engine. That engine may or may not be you. Too, those theories, again likening them to the railroad cars are only representative of theories. There probably are others, and new ones can be invented, designed, produced, and vetted.

However, leadership is not about theories but something more fundamental. Keep in mind that some of those people who have been regarded as "great" never were exposed to the plethora of literature and courses that exist today. Can one imagine a Moses or Gandhi, for example being versed in what often amounts to trivia of theories? Even more ridiculous, can anyone fathom that just knowing about such theories by name, let alone their content, would be requisite for assuming a leadership role? It is helpful to place things in perspective. With just a little imagination, anyone with a penchant for detail can create whole course programs around vacuum cleaners. There is materials science, design theory; engineering, chemistry, and who knows what else that CAN be related to a vacuum cleaner. One can create a vacuum cleaner degree, but does anyone think seriously for a moment that such a program would in any way, let alone necessarily, make one be able to use one effectively? This is not to say that education is not valuable; it is a question of content. What, then, would be useful?

Many years ago, people did not have the exact sciences, technology, or sophisticated thinking we do today that results in the division of labor and specialization of knowledge. People had to do more thinking through a problem, asking not only the "what" but the "why". Answers could not be looked up in textbooks, research articles, or dictionaries. Hence, there had to be an emphasis on methods.

What your education, training, or orientation program looks like will depend upon what you are seeking. For temporary or simple roles, not as much preparation would be expected, except one always should be competent in what they are doing. By now, you should have addressed the questions of philosophy and your motivations. As we said before, so many great leaders have walked across the historical stage not ever having taken one course or program in "leadership". Of course, the same can be said about other "greats", such as chemists, mathematicians, and the like. Formal preparation can be a shortcut to what other had to learn by experience. Nevertheless, all this will do nothing unless you have done your preliminary work in self evaluation. So, what might an ideal program look like? The following is only a broad and suggestive outline of what the field of "leadership" entails. Some parts may not be applicable to your situation, but to be broadly versed, the study areas can only contribute.

  • Philosophy - political, epistemology, logic, critical thinking, ethics
  • Political science - theory, systems analysis, comparative government, public administration, legal theory
  • Sociology
  • Psychology - normal and abnormal
  • World and regional, historiography (how history is written)
  • Political economy - theory and practice
  • Science background - so one can appreciate methods and what goes into identifying content.

If this is beginning to sound like a well-rounded liberal arts program, you are right. Both Plato and Aristotle said that a participatory society cannot survive unless the decision makers were educated. To gain any benefit from Leadership Programs or management programs one should have the background education upon which specialized training can be built, as well as the critical thinking skills to help determine which ones are worthwhile. Becoming a leader in complex times requires a greater acuity both of oneself as well as what is required to reach goals. So, it is a lot more that simply entering a leadership program, seminar, or workshop.

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