Paul Danos, Dean Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth.
Deans Iniguez, Gupta, and Peters all have very interesting things to say about leadership development and I agree with most of their observations.
It is my opinion that the coverage of leadership in business schools is perfectly reasonable and that it is a good thing that so many schools are experimenting with it.
Business education is so dynamic because our schools respond to the needs of our students, and in this era our students need to be stretched to improve and accelerate the development of their leadership skills. Research is helping us to sort out effective approaches. Of course corporations have tried many techniques and we learn from their experiences as well.
At Tuck we believe that we can further prepare our students for leadership and that self-awareness is a key. Building on comprehensive teamwork exercises, each student is evaluated on several important leadership characteristics by fellow team members. That is followed up with coaches who review the feedback, reinforce the positives, and help the students create individual plans of improvement. Our philosophy of leadership development includes work on each student's awareness of how colleagues and teammates perceive their leadership and this work is a very important step in the improvement process.
Specific leadership characteristics may differ in individuals. The ones we emphasize are those found in the literature on the subject and for which there is face validity such as:
- Managerial Skills
- Teamwork Skills
- Ability toArticulate, and
- Ability to inspire others
It is hard to see how anyone would get the first chance to become a leader without having the requisite knowledge or possessing basic managerial skills. Being a good team player will often mark one for advancement. Honesty is a crucial trait as few if any will be advanced if they are thought to be dishonest. Creativity may give one an edge in solving important problems. Being articulate is a must as one approaches the top levels, and having the ability to inspire others is a big plus in reaching the highest ranks of leadership. Having said that, we are still probing our understanding of the characteristics that make for a great leader.
The fact that the theories and scientific findings in this area are still evolving does not mean that we should stop experimenting. The opposite is true because helping our graduates to become the next generation of leaders is the ultimate goal of most business schools. It is imperative therefore that we experiment with the coverage in this area. Just as in the past, when cross-cutting topics such as ethics, technology, globalization and entrepreneurship were introduced, we now must learn about this crucial topic as we teach it. In the end, of course, research findings will play a bigger and bigger role in our offerings in leadership development, as is the case with all of our areas of knowledge.