Find your new career TODAY!

Can Leadership Be Taught


by Larry Sternberg, President at Talent Plus, Inc.

At the time of this post, Nelson Mandela, one of the greatest leaders in recorded history, has just passed away at the age of 95. I cannot think more insightfully or write more eloquently about Mr. Mandela than those who are currently doing so. But today I’m thinking about this great man in light of a persistent question: can leadership be taught?

I suspect that even those who believe leadership can be taught would readily agree that one cannot create a course of study that would endow the participants with Nelson Mandela’s capacity to lead. That’s easy to see in the case of Mr. Mandela. He was extraordinary in many ways.

But can we create a course of study to create leaders who are somewhat less extraordinary? Military generals, for instance? CEO’s? General Managers? Mayors? Team Captains? Many people believe we can. And I agree — if our goal is to teach people to perform at a merely acceptable level. But can a course of study (including a series of assignments and experiences) enable participants to achieve excellence as leaders? I believe not.

In this respect leadership is no different from other endeavors such as nursing, car racing, or film making. Anyone can learn to do them to some level of undistinguished performance. But excellence in performance requires aptitude, giftedness, talent. If the aptitudes related to leadership exist in a person, that person has the potential for excellence. A course of study in leadership will help actualize that potential, as will the right life experiences, mentors and so forth.

But if the right aptitudes do not exist in a person, no combination of intellectual and experiential learning will bring them to a level of excellence as a leader.

Can leadership be taught? Of course. Anything can be taught. The more important question is: Will that teaching produce truly excellent leaders? It’s not enough to have great leadership and management training. You also have to decide who you invite into those programs. My advice: focus on aptitude.

Thanks for reading. As always, I’m interested in your comments.

Larry Sternberg

Previous Page