Leadership: Very Rewarding, Very Challenging, Yet Very Elusive

Aspiring to be a leader has never been more popular. Everyone wants to be a leader, or so it seems these days. You have people clamouring for the title -and the pay, sometimes. However, not everyone is ready or realises the dangerous traps every leader will face…

So is learning to be a leader. In fact, the leadership training industry is worth an estimated N18 trillion ($50 billion) today. By its definition, leadership implies the activity of leading a group of people or an organisation or the ability to do this. Leadership involves, establishing a clear vision, sharing that vision with others so that they will follow willingly, providing the information, knowledge and methods to realise that vision, and coordinating and balancing the conflicting interests of all members and stakeholders.

Dr. Michael Shinagel is a distinguished leadership service lecturer in Extension at Harvard University. He served as dean of the Division of Continuing Education and University Extension at Harvard from 1975 to 2013. When he retired in 2013, he was acknowledged as the longest-serving dean, teaching leadership, in the history of Harvard University, with several academic units enrolling more than 20,000 students annually and generating N27 billion ($75 million) in revenues. 

Over the years, Shinagel has led a team of Harvard Extension School faculty to deliver leadership seminars on such topics as strategic planning, information technology, total quality management, leadership, and conflict resolution, etc. This Harvard team has taught successful seminars in Argentina, Chile, Costa Rica, Cyprus, Ecuador, Israel, Peru, Uruguay, and the Caribbean, to mention but a few.

Despite the popularity of the topic, leadership remains a paradox. People who seek to understand it by reading a primer on the topic will inevitably be frustrated and disappointed. Leadership, after all, is an art, not a science. It is not limited to a professional field or industry, be it corporate, governmental, military, academic, religious, or service. Leaders transcend the confines of a defining box. It pervades everything we do on daily basis and it is leadership that is required for all occasions and everyone is aspiring to this dizzying height.

Leaders, contrary to the widely held belief, are not born. They evolve into that role. According to Warren Benis, a noted authority on leadership, “The most dangerous leadership myth is that leaders are born—that there is a genetic factor to leadership. That’s nonsense; in fact, the opposite is true. Leaders are made rather than born.”

Perhaps President John F. Kennedy put it best when he observed, “Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.” Leaders learn to become leaders, and they continue to learn in their role as leaders. This also corroborates the fact that leadership and followership go parri passu. If you are too big to follow, then you are too small to lead.

So, why elucidating this much on leadership this time? It is perhaps to draw the attention of you, Dear Reader, to the need to get yourself trained in the art. The Institute of Directors prides itself in ensuring that people are properly schooled in the art of leadership, especially, as it borders on the essential ingredient of Corporate leadership, which is Corporate Governance.

In conclusion, John Maxwell posits that if you are leading and no one is following, you are just taking a stroll.