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

August 23, 2011

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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 of sitting 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 that exists 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.  Individuals 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, 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, leveraging each other’s skills and talents, and focused on meaningful work with a higher purpose.  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 8 weeks was replayed all over the country in classrooms both big and small.  A group of dedicated hard-working people spent 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 every student who made this sacrifice and am confident 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 collective good ahead of their own self-interest.  Sadly, the media heralds the exploits of those leaders who are clearly in it to feed their egos and fill their wallets.