Schools and colleges are often criticised for being exam factories, where students are taught how to pass an exam rather than important transferable skills that will help them on their journey through life.
This is not a completely unfounded; for example schools in England are ranked in a “league table” of exam results, placing significant pressure on teachers to get their students to pass with good grades. Few schools around the world teach important life skills like financial literacy, or how to complete a tax return. However, schools and colleges often do promote qualities like leadership, teamwork and communication, sometimes through formal teaching, and sometimes through other subjects.
Leadership and management are two major topics taught in business schools. Success in business often relies on working with teams of people, whether they be your employees or coworkers. Business schools around the world run classes on the best ways to motivate, lead and manage other people through theories such as Maslow’s “Hierarchy of Needs” and Herzberg’s “Two Factor Theory”.
Sport is an area that teaches leadership at college. In the United States college sports leagues are a big industry, with major sports leagues like the NFL and the NBA scouting players that take part in college level competitions. Playing a sport requires a number of leadership qualities, including communication, decision making (often in a fraction of a second), and team building. Players that can demonstrate strong levels of these skills whilst competing in college leagues will be more likely to be scouted and will have teams that are more likely to win. For example, Clemson, Alabama and Georgia are the top three favourite teams to win the CFP National Championship. These teams are made up of some of the best college level football players, many of whom will make it into the NFL Draft in the coming years thanks to their strong leadership skills.
At college level, students are not just taught in the classroom. Most are required to write assignments, produce presentations and undertake practical work as part of their assessments. This teaches important skills like time management and autonomous learning. Whilst a teacher may impart knowledge in a lecture or seminar, the students must go out and find further information, critique it and present an argument that they have devised independently based on the different information sources.
This independence can help students to become “self-motivated”, which is an important trait in a leader as they must be able to remain motivated and show commitment even when things aren’t going smoothly.
Leadership can be taught in many ways. Whilst schools and colleges come under criticism for not helping their students to take control of their lives and lead others, these traits are interwoven into other parts of academic life. Sometimes, the best learning comes when you don’t realise you’re being taught, and leadership is probably one of these skills.
To read more on topics like this, check out the leadership category.