Leadership Thought #201 – Leaders Are Still Being Cultivated Every Day

Internal leadership development | SEI - Swiss Engineering Institute

Smart companies invest in their current and future leaders.

I finished teaching my MBA 501 class last night and as with many things closure is bittersweet.  You just start to get to know a group of students and then the experience is over.  It never ceases to amaze me how diverse and interesting a classroom full of graduate students can be.  I also admire their ambition and willingness to make the sacrifice to sit in a classroom at night after working all day.   It also can’t be easy completing the assignments required for the class on top of work deadlines and responsibilities.  You can’t fake commitment – it either exists or it doesn’t.

When you teach leadership at a graduate level (which I do part time) it’s easy to be an optimist.  You get to see the vibrancy and drive in people.  These are individuals who are proactively investing their money and time to better themselves and create a more hopeful future.  Some students automatically rise to the top while others shine in different ways depending upon the assignments/discussions.  If you are paying close enough attention, it does support the management philosophy that every individual has a strength to share and will step up if they are properly motivated and given the opportunity to do so.  No one at this level wants to fail.  It’s important to remember this reality as the instructor.

I don’t subscribe to the theory that our future is bleak and our country is on the downside.  Sure we have our problems but that is to be expected.  Democracy and Capitalism can be messy.  Previous generations fought for our independence, lived through a civil war, managed through two world wars, pushed through desegregation, persisted through a cold war, dealt with health epidemics and managed through a great depression and dealt with countless other issues.  In each case, groups of talented and committed people rallied together behind a common cause, put aside their individual differences, leveraged each others skills and talents, and focused on meaningful work with a higher purpose.  More often that not, they put the good of the group ahead of their own self-interest.

What we need now and always are leaders to help get us through whatever obstacles are strewn in our path.  Last night was a small step in that direction.  I’m certain the scene played out in my classroom these past 7 weeks was replayed all over the country in classrooms both big and small.  A group of dedicated working people were spending time, effort and brainpower to learn how to become better managers and leaders.   They were listening to lectures, reading books, watching videos, sharing experiences, completing assignments and building relationships that will help them create a brighter future for themselves and others.  I am grateful for each and every student making this sacrifice and know that our companies, communities and nation will benefit in the long run.

Keep the faith and don’t succumb to the leadership cynicism that’s out there.  There are still many good people who are continually striving to grow and make a positive difference.  I encourage you to always be on the lookout for them and give them opportunities whenever you can.  Just remember that true leaders always put the common good ahead of their own self-interest.  Sadly, the media seems to herald the exploits of those leaders who are clearly in it to feed their ego and fill their wallet.

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