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Can You Really Learn to Lead?

“What does one learn at graduate business school? Business, one assumes. Or more to the point, the management of business. But peruse the website of any business school in the country — or in the world, for that matter — and you may come away thinking that the biggest topic they teach is ‘leadership,'” the New York Times reports.

index“The dominant brand, Harvard Business School, claims to ‘educate leaders who make a difference in the world.’ The University of Michigan’s Ross School does one better, developing ‘leaders who make a positive difference in the world.’ Kellogg at Northwestern develops ‘brave leaders who inspire growth in people, organizations and markets.’ And Duke’s Fuqua says it does what it does because ‘the world needs leaders of consequence.'”

“It hasn’t always been this way. For much of the 20th century, the paragons of business education promised to create not leaders but managers, those economic actors whose emergence came about at the dawn of the mega-corporations, and whose power increased alongside them. The manager was the noble steward of the American economy, and would be so until the 1970s, when the nation turned on its management elite in the midst of a recession and accused it of negligence.”

“Caught flat-footed selling a title, ‘manager,’ that had lost its social cachet, the ivory towers of business scrambled to find a new pitch. And they found it in leadership.”

Of course, the must-read book on this topic is Learning to Lead by Warren Bennis and Joan Goldsmith which “provides a program that will help managers transform themselves into leaders.”