Teaching Leadership

If any part of the university should understand leadership, it would be the business school. Not only do the faculty research leadership, they also impart this knowledge to undergraduate and graduate students, as well as participants from across the globe in a variety of executive education programs. While estimates for the amount spent on leadership development vary widely, leadership education and development is big business. TrainingIndustry.com estimates that corporate spending on training (including both insourced and outsourced spend for all types of training, not just for management and leadership education) was $356 billion in 2015. In a recent McKinsey article, Stanford’s Jeffrey Pfeffer estimates the amount spent on leadership development in the United States alone ranges from $14 billion to $50 billion per year.
But what is leadership? The definitions of leadership are many, reminding me of an utterance by U.S. Supreme Court Justice Potter Steward in a 1964 case about obscenity. When asked whether he could define obscenity, Judge Potter said that he couldn’t define the type of material that would be considered obscene, “but I know it when I see it.” Leadership can be a bit like that.


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