November 1, 2013| 0

Thoughts on leadership

Dr. Gerhard Steinke, Ph.D., CISSP
October 20, 2013

During discussion in a recent workshop on Management as a Liberal Art: Insights from Peter Drucker, Our Christian Faith and the Practice of Management, there was also discussion about leadership as “doing the right things.”

Managing a project and leading a group of people involves more than applying technical concepts and skills to do what is necessary, efficient, and proper (e.g., to design the marketing plan, implement the accounting system, or carry out the business plan). There is a quality of leadership required that knows what to do and doing what is right.

We heard views of leadership from a former executive of a global bank, general counsel of a large manufacturing firm, and a former investment analyst for a large Wall Street firm. Two thoughts stood out for me: 1) leadership is not about power, but about empowering; and 2) leadership does not depend on position (anyone can lead by encouraging, motivating, guiding or mentoring, supporting, serving, helping others, or developing trust—none of which require holding a certain position within an organization).

I think we are good at teaching people how to do things correctly and efficiently. But how do we teach people to know and do the right things? We can and do introduce material from the myriad books on leadership. We can and do invite great leaders to speak to our students. While both of these are worthwhile activities, is it enough to read about leaders and hear them speak? Can leadership be taught?

Or is it something to be learned through experience - by doing? I ask students to complete many assignments in teams. While the end of the team’s work is important, I am interested in examining and working on the team more closely. Are there not some leadership skills students that can learn while completing each team assignment? I want to encourage learning about leadership through repeated opportunities to be a team leader and reflecting on the experience with other team members. I hope that learning by doing in this context will provide the student with additional valuable insights into the challenges and possibilities of leadership.

And leadership must be modeled by those who wish to teach it, but that’s a topic for another day…


Dr. Steinke is Professor of Management and Information Systems in SPU's School of Business and Economics, where he has taught for more than 20 years.


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