I grew up with a few people who considered themselves the ‘anointed ones’. They were seemingly guaranteed the big job with the big salary with the big house because of who they were.
It didn’t take long for that myth to shatter. Some of them, predictably, crashed and burned.
Today we have less ‘anointed ones’ because of birth lineage but more ’anointed ones’ because of where they went to school. It seems that, in some locations, we are creating ‘masters of the universe’ who are looking for the mantle of leadership right out of school or certainly expecting it within a reasonable ‘internship period’.
I must admit that I get sucked in by the ‘image’ the MBA grad, now VP Corporate Strategy at the age of 40, portrays. Strong, confident, well dressed, looks smart, acts smart. Everything we need in a leader! But this is not reality. Reality is that that ‘look’ is just the image. But can they lead? Leadership is so much more than the suit and haircut. Strong business acumen, great people skills, good decision making ability, a team player, humble and so much more.
The question is, are we getting the best leaders out of this system? If we rely on these institutions to select well, teach well and graduate well are we getting the product we need?
A recent article in Bloomberg View entitled Save Us From the Ivy League Oligarchy (http://goo.gl/gGeF4B) argues that we should be looking below the top of the class for our future leaders. I must warn you, this article focuses primarily on the US Supreme Court – admittedly a little out of the field I am addressing. But the sentiment is interesting. Rather than relying on the selection process of these venerable institutions, maybe we need to come up with our own process.
Option 1. We leave it to these institutions to start the short list. Let them pre-select out of the ‘under graduate years’ or the ‘experienced business person returning to school’ group. They do a good job at this. But instead of the top of class, lets look into these folks a little more than we are. Let’s look for those personalities or attributes now that we will need in our future leaders. Then let’s get them the real experience, the in the trenches experience, they will need to be great leaders. Then we train them, mentor them, coach them and get them even more experience. Maybe then we can find our next great leaders.
Option 2. Forget the universities, post grad programs and all of that education. Let’s grow from within. Once they have been with us for 5-8 years let’s start looking hard at the candidates. Let’s create a program that allows our future leaders to lead, be coached, mentored and trained well from within. Let’s give everyone a chance to shine and be the leaders of tomorrow.
Both options, of course, have merits. Nothing is set in stone. Every process needs to be flexible as we deal with different raw materials entering and the need for different products coming out the other end.
But what is very clear is that our leaders of tomorrow are not born with the title and they are certainly not the ‘anointed ones’ just because they were selected to the right program.
Some will come out of Option 1 above. But many others are sitting down the hall right now looking for that opportunity. We need to find them, pull them out and set them on their way. They will ultimately be our best.
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