“If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader”. John Quincy Adams.
There are mushrooming leadership development programs for students in the developed countries to impart leadership skills and abilities in students. Some prestigious international universities have customized training programs including Harvard Business School offering degrees in the domain of leadership. However, there are no such initiatives and courses in India despite being the second largest populated country in the world with the highest number of young population. In fact, there is a huge potential for leadership training programs for youth in India.
Unfortunately, India doesn’t have organized methods to impart leadership training for students except in a few premier business schools.
During my leadership training programs I often come across students raising questions about whether leaders are born or made. I try to persuade them that leaders are made rather than born. Most of the leadership skills depend on emotional intelligence that can be cultivated through teaching, training, observation, experience and practice. Hence, anyone can acquire leadership qualities, unlike talents which are inborn and the same has been substantiated by a number of leadership gurus including Warren Bennis, Stephen R. Covey, Ken Blanchard and John Maxwell.
Developing leadership skills in students needs an integrated approach and coordinated efforts from various stakeholders including educators, students, parents, educational institutions, industry and Non Governmental Organizations (NGO) to enable students shift from campus to corporate successfully.
Here is the blueprint to achieve it:
Role of Students
Learning leadership is like learning how to swim. Only when you get into water you learn the art of swimming. Hence, take a plunge to lead from the front. Here are some of the ways to acquire leadership skills and abilities:
- Be passionate to lead from the front with a heart to make a difference in the lives of others.
- Visualize yourself as a leader as visualization is one of the effective tools to achieve whatever you want in your life. Remember, a battle is won twice – first in mind and second in real life.
- Apply SWOT tool to assess your strengths and weaknesses, and search for opportunities from threats.
- Work in teams to understand team dynamics and improve your emotional intelligence. Practice is the most effective way to learn any skill and leadership is not an exception. You cannot become a crack-shot unless you lose some ammunition.
- Take successful leaders as your role model and find out the qualities you admire and imbibe them.
- Read inspirational books. Most of the leaders are great readers including Abraham Lincoln.
- Find out the problems that affect people; create a common cause; influence people; build a strong team; align their energies and efforts; and motivate them constantly to accomplish your goals and objectives.
- Delegate routine tasks to others so that you can find more time to undertake challenging roles and responsibilities.
- Spread the fame when things go well and take the blame when things go wrong.
- Learn, unlearn and relearn as the world is changing rapidly. In addition, what works now might not work in the future due to increased uncertainty, volatility, complexity and ambiguity everywhere.
Role of Educators
Educators must take initiative to build leadership skills in students to enable students to find themselves comfortable to lead at the corporate world. For instance, they must encourage students to participate in simulated ‘United Nations Assembly’ which is a mock exercise for students wherein students represent various countries in the world and discuss and debate on pressing global issues. They can also discuss the ways and means to ensure global peace and security and maintain ecological balance. They must encourage students to participate in group discussions to develop leadership skills.
Role of Educational Institutions
- Organize events, functions, conferences, tours and excursions. Also, conduct industry visits for students to expose them to the practical world to build skills.
- Nominate class representative for each classroom to build coordination and leadership skills.
- Encourage students to participate in NCC, NSS, and NGO where they work with other team members and they are the right avenues to learn team dynamics to build leadership skills.
- Inspire students to participate in jungle training, mountaineering, or river rafting where they have to work with other members.
- Teach students how to handle pressure and work under stress to achieve all-round success in this century.
- Balance both curricular and extracurricular activities as presently Indian educational institutions don’t emphasize on extracurricular activities. Building leadership skills falls in the bracket of extracurricular activities and these skills groom students as well-rounded personalities.
It is essential to build leaders on continuous basis as the Baby Boomers are retiring and there is a dearth of leadership talent in the leadership pipeline globally. Current complexity calls for leaders who can take on challenges head-on. Hence, it is strongly recommended to include a few courses on leadership development along with soft skills to groom leaders for tomorrow.
The future of any country depends on developing healthy minds in healthy bodies and it requires developing a unique mindset, tool-set and skill-set among the students. India has relatively fewer leaders when compared with the size of its population. Small countries produce the best leaders.
What is wrong with India? Why is India unable to produce the best leaders in the world? India had a great leader like Swami Vivekananda who left an indelible mark internationally by spreading tolerance and universal brotherhood. India needs more such Vivekanandas to inspire Indian youth to change their mindset with a proactive and positive attitude to grow along with other civilized and advanced nations in the world.
Prof. M.S. Rao
International Leadership Guru
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