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姝 Academy of Management Learning and Education, 2003, Vol. 2, No. 1, 54 – 67.


Can Leadership Be Taught?

Perspectives From
Management Educators
Interview and Commentary by JONATHAN P. DOH
Villanova University

“More than knowledge, leaders need charac- or innate behavior.2 Although most management ed-
ter. Values and ethics are vitally important. ucators now agree that leadership is both a skill and
The basics of leadership can be taught. What a behavior that exhibits that skill, this dual defini-
is desperately needed is more responsible tion has generated additional disagreement over
leadership—a new ethic to confront the chal- whether leadership can be taught.3 That question is
lenges of our day.” the primary focus of this forum.
—Oscar Arias (personal communication, To provide initial observations regarding the ques-
June 18, 2001) tion of whether leadership can be taught and to ex-
plore the subsidiary issues of the potential effective-
Leadership is an increasingly ubiquitous subject ness of leadership education, particularly within U.S.
in business school curricula, a theme of popular business schools, I interviewed leading manage-
business books, and a topic for academic and prac- ment scholars involved in leadership research, edu-
titioner research.1 Leadership research has blos- cation, and development. I chose individuals whose
somed: It is now a primary focus of great bodies of research and pedagogical experience related to
scholarly and practitioner research and the do- leadership (broadly defined), but who also had inter-
main of more than a dozen journals. Concurrently, ests and experiences that would allow them to place
undergraduate, graduate, and executive manage- leadership within the context of the broader goals of
ment institutes, programs, and courses directed management education. All have had experience in
toward training future leaders and improving lead- executive education or other contexts that allowed
ership skills have proliferated. Historically, there has them to critically evaluate the questions posed here.
been debate over whether leadership is a skill, trait, I asked these experts to respond briefly to a series of
questions about whether leadership can be learned,
and if so, whether it can be taught. As a subsidiary
I thank AMLE associate editor Allen Bluedorn and two anony- focus, I inquired as to what approaches and tech-
mous reviewers for helpful guidance in preparation of this niques are likely to be most effective in teaching
manuscript. I also express appreciation to the six management leadership and developing leadership skills, what
scholars who participated in this project, acknowledge research individuals and groups are most likely to benefit
assistance of Brandon Ruppel, and extend particular gratitude
from leadership education, and what institutions or
to Stephen Stumpf for his guidance and support of this effort.
1 individuals are best positioned to deliver effective
See Bird (1940) and Stogdill (1948, 1974) for representative ex-
amples of early research on the individual factors associated leadership courses.
with leadership; Hencley (1973) and Hoy and Miskel (1987) for In the selection of these scholars, I sought to
reviews of research examining the situational context, setting, include some of the major living contributors to
and climate in which leadership is exhibited; House, Spangler, research at the intersection of leadership and ed-
and Woycke (1991), Klein and House (1995), and Pawar and
Eastman (1997) for more recent leadership research focused on
ucation. I wanted to include educators who had
questions surrounding CEO and top management team cha- researched and engaged in scholarly exchange
risma; Hambrick and Mason (1984), Hitt and Tyler (1991), and
Ireland and Hitt (1999) for insight into the intersection of strate-
gic management and leadership; and Bass (1985), Bryman (1992),
Sashkin (1988), Tichy and Devanna, (1986), and Westley and By “innate,” I mean built-in, such as breathing or sleeping (for
Mintzberg (1989) for reference to research into “transformation- some). However, even here, we can learn to breath easier and
al” leadership, i.e., leadership that prompts a fundamental shift sleep better.
in organizational paradigm. Bass (1985), Conger (1989, 1990), and As a simple convention, I define teaching as instruction, and
Kanungo (1988) provide broad introductions to research into learning as the process whereby knowledge is gained, whether
charismatic leadership. as a result of being taught or by other means.

2003 Doh 55

The small sample is limited in several respects.

First, with the exception of Chris Bartlett, it is com-
prised of U.S. management scholars and educa-
tors, and therefore, does not reflect a nationally or
culturally diverse population (Bartlett is a native of
Australia and divides his time between the United
States and Australia). Second, there are no women
in the sample, and therefore, the views are not
fully representative. Third, the responses may not
be fully comparable because those who responded
to written inquiries were afforded greater opportu-
nity to contemplate and review their responses
prior to making them than were those interviewed
in person. Nonetheless, this brief review provides
some interesting insights into the individual and
collective views of these experts. Such insights
may begin to clarify some questions about whether
leadership can be taught, and more broadly, may
inform discussions regarding the role of manage-
ment education in developing leadership skills.


Leadership has long occupied a prominent place
in management research and education.4 Lead-
ership has also become a pervasive subject of
management education research and practice.
Leadership journals have proliferated (see Table
Jonathan P. Doh 1), and leadership courses are now a part of
nearly every major business school’s curriculum
in the country (see Table 2). More than three
about leadership as well as made contributions to fifths of the top 50 U.S. business schools as de-
practice through their writings, consulting, and ex- fined by the 2002 U.S. News and World Report
ecutive training. rankings publicize that they offer some course-
The panel members are Christopher A. Bartlett, work in leadership. In addition, a wide array of
Harvard Business School; Kim S. Cameron, Univer- leadership research centers, institutes, and pro-
sity of Michigan Business School; Jay Conger, Lon- grams within and outside of business schools
don Business School and University of Southern exists. The existence and proliferation of these
California, Los Angeles; Michael A. Hitt, Arizona initiatives presumes that leadership is (1) an im-
State University; Stephen Stumpf, Villanova Uni- portant area for management learning; and (2)
versity; and Michael Useem, Wharton School, Uni-
versity of Pennsylvania. 4
Early contributions to this research include Barnard’s (1938)
Three interviews were conducted in person dur- discussion of the functions of the executive and early investi-
ing summer and fall, 2001, and three were con- gations of leaders as individuals possessing specific personal-
ducted by way of e-mail exchange during fall, 2001. ity traits that defined leadership abilities (Bird, 1940; Stogdill,
The face-to-face interviews were recorded. The re- 1948, 1974). These leadership scholars have debated what spe-
spondents were given the opportunity to review cific individual factors were associated with leadership and
whether such factors can be developed and learned. In partic-
the abbreviated written transcripts of the inter- ular, some researchers have argued that leadership is situa-
views to correct factual errors or clarify meaning, tional or context specific, suggesting that there may be oppor-
but they were not permitted to alter the transcript tunities for mentors to influence leadership development by
or change their responses to the questions posed. subordinates or colleagues. Hoy and Miskel attempted to iden-
To further clarify perspectives related to whether tify “distinctive characteristics of the setting to which the lead-
er’s success could be attributed” (1987: 273) and Hencley argued
leadership could be taught (versus learned), I con- “the situation approach maintains that leadership is deter-
ducted a short follow-up interview by way of e- mined not so much by the characters of the individuals as by
mail during January, 2002. the requirements of social situation” (1973: 38).
56 Academy of Management Learning and Education March

Christopher A. Bartlett Kim Cameron

Daewoo Professor of Business Administration Professor, organizational behavior and human re-
and chair, Program for Global Leadership, Har- source management, University of Michigan Busi-
vard Business School. Previously with Alcoa and ness School. Author, Developing Management
McKinsey. Author (with Sumantra Ghoshal), Man- Skills (HarperCollins), Diagnosing and Changing
aging Across Borders: The Transnational Solution Organizational Culture (Addison Wesley Long-
(2nd ed., 1998, Harvard Business School Press); man), Organizational Decline (Ballinger), Organi-
named by Financial Times as one of 50 most influ- zational Effectiveness (Academic Press), and
ential business books of the century; and The Indi- Paradox and Transformation (Ballinger). Former
vidualized Corporation (HarperBusiness, 1997); president, Bay Asset Funding Corporation and Ful-
winner, the Igor Ansoff Award for best new work in bright Distinguished Scholar. Recipient, Organiza-
strategic management. Articles have appeared in tional Behavior Teaching Society’s Outstanding
Harvard Business Review, Sloan Management Re- Educator award.
view, Strategic Management Journal, and Acad-
emy of Management Review. Leadership has also become a pervasive subject
of management education research and practice.
In 1994, James Bailey, writing in The Journal of
that business schools are well equipped to un- Leadership Studies, found that
dertake the mission of providing training and
education in leadership. Table 2 presents exam- since the inception of the Journal of Manage-
ples of leadership training and education initia- ment Education in 1991, 10 articles (a little
tives, estimates of the number of top 50 business under 10%) have appeared that dealt directly
schools that offer those particular programs or with leadership, with a score of others either
courses based on a search of the web sites of indirectly or parenthetically evincing the
each school, and representative examples of theme. Such pedagogical attention stands as
these offerings both within and outside of busi- testimony of the importance of leadership
ness schools. concepts in organizational studies, but more
2003 Doh 57

Jay Conger Michael A. Hitt

Professor, organizational behavior, London Busi- Professor and Weatherup/Overby Chair, Executive
ness School, and senior research scientist, Center Leadership, Arizona State University. Recipient, Ir-
for Organizations, University of Southern Califor- win Outstanding Educator Award from the Busi-
nia, Los Angeles. Formerly executive director, ness Policy and Strategy Division, Academy of
Leadership Institute, University of Southern Cali- Management. Past president, Academy of Manage-
fornia. Author (with B. Benjamin), Building Leaders ment. Author (with Robert E. Hoskisson, Downscop-
(Jossey-Bass), Charismatic Leadership in Organi- ing: How to Tame the Diversified Firm (Oxford
zations (Sage), The Leader’s Change Handbook University Press), “Achieving and Maintaining
(Jossey-Bass), and Learning to Lead (Jossey-Bass). Strategic Competitiveness in the 21st Century: The
Author, articles in Harvard Business Review, The Role of Strategic Leadership” (with R. Duane Ire-
Leadership Quarterly, Academy of Management land), Academy of Management Executive, 2000,
Review, and the Journal of Organizational Behav- and numerous other articles. Former editor, Acad-
ior. Associate editor of The Leadership Quarterly. emy of Management Journal.

pointedly it underscores the need for innova-

tive methods by which these concepts can be of caveats and expressed reservations about how,
communicated to and understood by the man- where, and under what conditions such learning
agement community (Bailey, 1994: 32). can most usefully take place:
A central question that has not, to date, been sat- Steve Stumpf: “Can leadership be learned? Of
isfactorily answered is whether leadership can be course. Leadership is not like breathing—if you
taught, and that is the focus of this discussion. don’t focus your efforts and work at it, you won’t
be an effective leader. It may be that every per-
son cannot ‘learn’ how to be an effective leader,
Can leadership be learned?
but we could say the same about learning chess.
All the educators indicated belief that leadership Everyone does not have the potential to be a
could be learned, although each offered a number master chess player. There are concepts and
58 Academy of Management Learning and Education March

Stephen Stumpf Michael Useem

Professor, Management Department chair, and William and Jacalyn Egan Professor of Manage-
Fred Springer Chair of Business Leadership, Vil- ment at the Wharton School and director, Wharton
lanova University. Formerly dean, Professional De- Center for Leadership and Change Management.
velopment, Booz/Allen/Hamilton; dean, College of Author, The Leadership Moment: Nine True Stories
Business and Graduate Studies, The University of of Triumph and Disaster and Their Lessons for Us
Tampa; professor and director, Center for Leader- All (New York: Times Books/Random House) and
ship, Stern School, NYU. Author, “21st-Century Leading Up (Crown Business/Random House). Or-
Leadership: Redefining Management Education,” ganizer, teams of Wharton graduates, company
Strategy ⴙ Business; Learning To Use What You managers, and other groups for treks up Mount
Already Know (with J. Deluca; Berrett-Koehler); Everest, trips to Civil War battlefields, and other
Taking Charge: Strategic Leadership in the Middle learning events for leadership development.
Game (with T. Mullen; Prentice Hall). Recipient, the
Organizational Behavior Teaching Society’s Out-
standing Educator award. Mike Useem: “Some managers have a head start
in acquiring leadership capacities, but everyone
can improve. It is a learned capacity, albeit one
practices that can be learned (and taught) that that for many proves very difficult to master.”
will enhance the leadership effectiveness of Kim Cameron: “Some people have an inclination
many people (but not all).” to learn some competencies faster or better than
others, of course, and some people reflect more
charismatic or likable characteristics than others.
Leadership is not like breathing—if you But many great leaders are not those that appear
don’t focus your efforts and work at it, on the covers of Time and Fortune. They have
you won’t be an effective leader.” learned to achieve spectacular results in their own
—Stephen Stumpf circumstances. Think of parents. Can people learn
to become better parents, or are we just born either
2003 Doh 59

competent or not? Everyone would agree that ef- life, family, and possibly genes. So the latter cannot
fective parenting can be learned and improved. So be taught. For example, we cannot teach a person to
can effective leadership.” be ambitious or to be more open to risk taking—
Jay Conger: “Yes, most definitely. Here work ex- which would be dispositional characteristics.”
periences, bosses, special projects, role models, Kim Cameron: “Let’s take the assumption that
education all play a role in leadership develop- the answer is ‘no.’ Leadership can’t be taught and
ment. Using an analogy with sports, . . . not every- leadership can’t be learned. That means we should
one can become an outstanding player despite change entirely our research and teaching empha-
coaching, yet most will benefit and improve their sis in universities. We should begin to focus on
‘game.’ A few will go on to become stars or out- finding the genetic code that is associated with
standing leaders given coaching, extensive expe- leadership. Forget theory. Forget models. Forget
riences, and personal drive.” correlations and predictors. Forget qualitative in-
vestigations of great leaders. Close down Fortune
and Business Week and all the leadership journals.
“. . . Not everyone can become an Eliminate training and development departments
outstanding player despite coaching, in most companies. If I can’t learn it and I can’t
yet most will benefit and improve help someone else improve it, let’s stop wasting
their ‘game.’”—Jay Conger resources on all this nonsense we pretend to be
doing in higher education. If leaders are born not
made—and if no one can teach anyone else to
Mike Hitt: “I’m not of the view that you are either improve—let’s start investigating leadership in the
born with a trait or not. Obviously, some people are biology lab rather than in the business world. So
more prone to be leaders. For example . . . some yes, unequivocally [leadership can be taught].
people are more extroverted and some more intro- Some people have an inclination to learn some
verted. And maybe those who are extroverted competencies faster or better than others, of
would be more comfortable in leadership posi- course, and some people reflect more charismatic
tions . . . but the bottom line is, leadership can be or likable characteristics than others.”

“If leaders are born not made—and if no

Can leadership be taught?
one can teach anyone else to improve—
Agreeing that some aspects of leadership can be let’s start investigating leadership in the
learned is not the same as saying that they can be biology lab rather than in the business
taught, at least in the formal sense. Most of the
world.”—Kim Cameron
management educators agreed that some aspects
of leadership could be taught; although, there were
differences in their views regarding how success- Steve Stumpf: “Can leadership be taught? Of
fully leadership skills can be developed through course. But the methods of teaching need to focus
formal courses and coaching. According to many of on creating meaningful experiences from which
the experts, whether leadership can be taught is as the student can learn. Book knowledge is only a
contingent on the student as on the teacher. small part of effective leadership—just as reading
Jay Conger: “Yes [leadership can be taught], but a tennis book is only a small part of being an
only certain aspects. Let’s say that leadership is exceptional tennis player. Leadership is a perfor-
made up of three different dimensions: skills, per- mance sport. Leadership requires both thinking
spectives, and dispositions. Many leadership skills and doing—to the satisfaction of many others with
can be taught, and to some extent perspectives diverse expectations. Hence, most of what is
may be developed and enhanced through educa- taught as ‘best practice’ is only best practice for a
tion. For example, we can teach how to present specific audience— one that the particular learner
ideas more persuasively and communicate more may not encounter. This is what makes it appear
inspirationally. We can also teach aspects of stra- that leadership can be learned, but not taught. If
tegic thinking so one’s perspective is broadened. At we could stop the world, then the teachings would
the same time, there is a critical contextual dimen- work next time. With the world changing (i.e., ev-
sion to strategic thinking which is [the] product of ery leadership episode being unique, just like the
immersion in one’s field as well as a mental capacity snow flakes that are falling), what is taught—to be
to think more conceptually. These are difficult to useful—must be learned in a personal, applicable,
teach. In terms of dispositions, these are a product of more intuitive way.”
60 Academy of Management Learning and Education March

Selected Leadership Management and Leadership Management Education Journals

Year First
Journal Published Publisher Focus

The Leadership and Organizational 1980 Emerald Provides “concepts and ideas on the
Development Journal expected qualities of leaders.”
Leadership Quarterly 1990 JAI Press (1990–1999); Publishes “leadership research and
Elsevier Science (1999–) applications.”
The Journal of Leadership Studies 1997 Baker College Flint, MI The journal is “for individuals seeking
information, ideas, and networking
opportunities in leadership education.”
Leadership Studies Journal 1997 Student Leadership Institute, On-line journal focusing directly on the
University of Colorado “development of leadership programs
and courses in colleges and
Strategy and Leadership 1973 Emerald Outlines “powerful strategies for long-
range planning and strong leadership.”
Leader to Leader 1996 Drucker Foundation Offers “cutting-edge ideas on leadership
management and strategies from today’s
top leaders from private, public, and
social sector.”

Note. These are only a sample of the many journals devoted to topics related to leadership. Other journals address issues such as
(1) the broader, spiritual aspects of leadership; (2) leadership in a specific profession such as nursing or education; and (3) leadership
in a specific context such as change management or innovation.

Mike Hitt: “The basic definitions of teaching and coaching, mentoring, and those fine-grained
learning are ‘to impart knowledge’ and ‘to acquire skills that include the ability to communicate, to
knowledge,’ respectively. The short answer to your see patterns, and to work effectively through oth-
questions is ‘yes.’ Obviously, it is a little more ers. These are the sorts of things a good mentor
complex, however. The knowledge required to per- would do. But attitudes are, at best, coachable at
form what my colleagues and I refer to as strategic the margin. But if you believe that all of this is
leadership has both explicit and tacit components. coachable, then we could simply create leaders
The explicit components are easier to teach. Some with ease. But we don’t and we can’t.”
of the explicit components include knowledge of
the steps necessary to develop a strategy and vi-
How can leadership be taught?
sion. There are actions required to ‘empower’ em-
ployees to take desired actions. However, there are As the scholars considered the caveats and con-
subtle and tacit actions and processes required to ditions associated with the question of whether
gain commitment to a strategy and vision. There leadership can be taught, I asked them to iden-
are tacit components of empowering employees tify what techniques might be more (or less) suc-
(building relationships, demonstrating confidence cessful in transmitting some of the skills that
but with humility). Some of the tacit dimensions they believed could be imparted through formal
may be conveyed through experiential teaching, or informal management education. Common
through case discussions and by ‘learning by do- themes were that such programs should be
ing’— on the job learning such as an internship. highly practical, include training or coaching
But the bottom line is leadership can be taught.” from practitioners, that students may learn as
Chris Bartlett: “If I define leadership to include much or more from failures in leadership as they
knowledge, skills, and attitudes, we can cer- would in attempting to replicate successes, and
tainly teach the knowledge. Leaders have to that to effectively teach leadership, programs
know about what it is they are leading. For ex- must be tailored to the particular needs, atti-
ample, a great political leader has to understand tudes and circumstances of the students.
the philosophy, structure, and issues of the coun- Mike Useem: “Managers can begin by engaging
try he or she leads. This knowledge is transmit- those closest to them in a leadership debate, and
table through either formal training or more of- asking them to do the same with their associates.
ten through life experience or development. You They can discuss their moments of both success
can’t lead something you don’t understand. Ac- and setback; ask them to synthesize lessons from
quiring the skills can be accomplished through their own leadership experiences; provide them
2003 Doh 61

Types of Leadership Initiatives and Examples in Management Education

Estimated Number, Top 50 U.S.

Business Schools Offering
Leadership Initiative (U.S. News & World Report) Example(s) at Various Schools

Leadership courses 32 Business Leadership in Changing Times, University of Chicago

Leadership and Change in Organizations, MIT (Sloan)
Leadership and Influence Management, University of California—Irvine
Leadership and Organizational Change, Georgia Institute of Technology
Leadership and Personal Development, University of Iowa (Tippie)
Leadership and Teamwork, University of Maryland (Smith)
Leadership in Organizations, University of Washington
Leading Organizations, Dartmouth (Tuck)
Leading Out Loud, University of California—Berkeley (Haas)
Leading Teams and Organizations, Vanderbilt (Owen)
The Practice of Leadership, University of Chicago
Leadership school NA Jepson School of Leadership Studies, University of Richmond
Leadership 7 Business Leadership Center, Virginia Tech (Pamplin)
institute/Center Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership, Center for International
Leadership, University of Buffalo
Center for Ethical Leadership, University of Texas (Lyndon B. Johnson
School for Public Affairs)
Center for Leadership and Change Management, University of
Pennsylvania (Wharton)
David Berg Center for Leadership and Ethics, University of Pittsburgh
Institute for Global Leadership, Tufts University
Leadership Institute, University of Southern California (Marshall)
Leadership Research Institute, Indiana University (Kelley)
Student Leadership Institute, University of Colorado, Boulder
The Center for Leadership, Babson College
William F. Achtmeyer Center for Global Leadership, Dartmouth (Tuck)
Leadership program 17 Global Leadership Program, Southern Methodist University (Cox) Global
(Mostly executive Leadership Program, University of Michigan
management programs) Global Leadership Program, George Washington University
Program for Global Leadership, Harvard Business School

Leadership concentration 6 Community Leadership Major, Aquinas College

or major James MacGregor Burns Academy of Leadership, University of Maryland
Leadership Concentration, Claremont Graduate University (Drucker
Graduate School of Management)
Leadership Concentration, Michigan State University (Eli Broad
Graduate School of Management)
Leadership Concentration, Texas A&M University, (Lowry Mays
Graduate School of Business)
Leadership Concentration, Yale School of Management
Leadership Major, Penn State College of Agricultural Sciences
Organization and Leadership Major, Marquette University

Leadership fellowship 2 Park Leadership Fellows Program, Cornell (Johnson)

Women’s Leadership Forum, Texas A&M

with personal coaching and individual mentoring; tings, internships, role-plays and other experiential
and change the business culture so they can make exercises.”
decisions without acute fear of failure.” Jay Conger: “The dimensions of leadership you
Steve Stumpf: “Once a foundation of ideas about wish to teach determine the appropriate peda-
leadership is internalized (from books, cases, discus- gogy. For example, case studies and action learn-
sions, guest speakers), it must be practiced with ing may be most useful for developing strategic
feedback in realistic, rich environments. These thinking. Experiential exercises are most useful for
could be simulation settings, client-consulting set- teaching and honing behavioral skills such as
62 Academy of Management Learning and Education March

communications and persuasion. Feedback ques- Steve Stumpf: “Leadership must go beyond cog-
tionnaires and coaching can be very helpful in nitions to actions, communications, inspiring oth-
benchmarking one’s current capacities in leader- ers, and being a role model. There is a difference
ship. Personal growth methods can be helpful in between a leadership position (a position of power
focusing individuals on what types of work situa- and authority) and leading. If one has no ‘free will’
tions they can be most skillful in and most pas- followers, they are not a ‘leader’ in the sense we
sionate about and therefore have a higher proba- mean in management. When a person in a position
bility of being an effective leader.” of authority tells someone subordinate to them to
Kim Cameron: “I would cite David Whetten who do something— or else—that person is not leading.
advocates a learning model consisting of five dis- We should reserve the term leadership to some-
tinctive (although sometimes overlapping and in- thing other than directing or coercing.”
tegrated) learning activities: (1) skill preassess- Jay Conger: “In terms of ‘faculty,’ the ideal
leadership development program would include
ment, (2) skill learning (concepts and best
three groups of ‘instructors.’ The first would be a
practices), (3) skill analysis, (4) skill practice (with
small group of faculty who have a depth of
feedback), and (5) skill application.”
knowledge about leadership and possess the ca-
The approaches described above emphasize, in
pacity to teach using a broad range of pedago-
part, the use of modeling techniques that allow
gies (plus a keen interest in developing an indi-
students to learn to pattern behavior based on the vidual’s potential). The second set would be a
experiences of successful leaders. Yet, what is rel- very small handful of company executives who
evant to one individual or group may not be valid possess teaching skills, are accepted role mod-
for others. Further, some educators argued that els for leadership, and are capable of conveying
such patterning efforts could be self-reinforcing simple but powerful frameworks about leader-
and reflect past practice rather than the potential ship that are derived from their work experi-
to impart new knowledge or insight. ences. The final group would include profes-
Chris Bartlett: “Consultants typically go in and sional trainers and would include individuals
interview a bunch of successful people in the com- most familiar with using experiential and feed-
pany, and they say, ‘What does it take to succeed back methods extensively.”
in this organization?’ Then they document it and Mike Hitt has found that discussing leadership
look at the common characteristics and say, ‘Here failures may be more effective than focusing on
are the important competencies that you need in leadership successes:
this company.’ What they’ve just done is capture Mike Hitt: “Unfortunately, we don’t always un-
what it has taken to succeed in the past, embedded derstand why the success occurs. We think we
it, and locked it in. There is an assumption that all know why, but we really don’t. Often times, we can
managers are alike and that the challenges of more easily pinpoint why things didn’t go well.”
managers are the same—that there is a universal
model of management. I think that what we’ve got
“Unfortunately, we don’t always
to do is decouple this notion of competencies and
think about attitudes and knowledge and skills. understand why the success occurs. We
We can train development of knowledge, of indus- think we know why, but we really don’t.
tries, of companies, and of financial tools. We can Often times, we can more easily pinpoint
teach knowledge and develop skills. We can coach why things didn’t go well.”—Mike Hitt
people on how to be more effective team players.
We can teach them on how to interpret data and
Useem cites Jon Krakauer’s book, Into Thin Air as
think through analysis to recommendation and im-
an interesting reference for teaching leadership.
plementation. But the attitudes part is the harder
The book describes how two climbing groups, si-
one.” multaneously nearing the summit of Everest, were
hit by a violent storm, and how each responded
differently to the challenges they faced. His per-
“There is an assumption that all spective echoes Mike Hitt’s comments:
managers are alike and that the Mike Useem: “It is useful to ask what went
challenges of managers are the same— right—and why so many things went so terribly
that there is a universal model of wrong—for the leaders of the two teams as they
management.”—Chris Bartlett desperately sought safety.”
In this particular case, blind ambition to reach
2003 Doh 63

the top, and a consistent record of placing individ- tinguishes those who move up to those positions is
ual interests ahead of collective ones, appeared to a capacity that writer Daniel Goleman has called
have caused a lapse in judgment and leadership. emotional intelligence. It amounts to the following:
If you are self-aware and self-regulating, empa-
thetic and compassionate, and skilled at bringing
To whom can leadership be taught?
out the best in people around you, you will hear
Not surprisingly, most of the management educa- what you need to know and inspire what they need
tors believe that individuals who are motivated to to do.”
acquire leadership skills and character and who
are actively seeking leadership positions are the
best subjects for leadership education. However, “Many managers will have known
here again, the educators suggest that not every- brilliant colleagues who had every
one is naturally poised to acquire leadership ca- answer but no respect.”—Mike Useem
Kim Cameron: “Leadership education is most ef-
fectively presented to those who are aware that Chris Bartlett argues that there may be a sort of
they must be leaders. Often, MBAs or undergradu- “creaming” effect, especially in the teaching of
ates do not yet have the experience, nor do they executives:
have the perspective that makes leadership a rel- Chris Bartlett: “We take people with records of
evant topic. Neither urgency nor importance is leadership, and we bring them in, and off they go,
attached to leadership development. After these and they end up leading great organization[s] and
students’ first promotion, however— or their first we say ‘look what we did.’ We are preselecting to
toddler or teenager—leadership becomes a more some of that genetic code (for leadership). We give
relevant topic. It is then that leadership education them the trainable and coachable part, and while
becomes a passionate pursuit. [Hence,] knowing the skills part may spill over in to the attitude part,
why, and feeling the need, are prerequisites to the fact is we get highly competitive people in the
great leadership development.” first instance. And we probably reinforce that, but
Mike Hitt argues that a broader group might we aren’t changing the world.”
benefit from leadership education:
Mike Hitt: “People who aspire to be in manage-
By whom can leadership be taught?
ment or leadership roles, and I assume most stu-
dents in business and other college programs are Many in the group argued that leaders themselves
among these. Even high school students. It would would be among the most effective teachers of
be almost easier to identify those who could not leadership. Others cautioned that while the char-
benefit.” acteristics of individual leaders are interesting to
Jay Conger has found that the individuals who students, they are rarely and not easily imitated. In
can most benefit from leadership education would fact, such behaviors are often idiosyncratic and
possess: context dependent, and therefore difficult for stu-
Jay Conger: “(1) high achievement and ambition dents to follow.
needs, (2) a strong capacity for strategic thinking, Steve Stumpf: “Students of leadership seem to
(3) a strong degree of pragmatism, (4) a baseline of gravitate toward real leaders. They want to hear
effective communications skills (both in terms of from them, learn from them, because they have
persuasion and inspiration), (5) a measure of emo- credibility. But they don’t necessarily learn a great
tional intelligence, and (6) a genuine learning ori- deal from them. What it takes for the learning to
entation and desire to lead.” happen is experiences for them to practice what
Steve Stumpf: “To benefit from leadership edu- they have heard.”
cation, one must be motivated to be a leader. This Kim Cameron: “One would normally say that
suggests a need for both a setting in which one leaders would be the best teachers of leadership.
wants to lead (accomplish something with and Jack Welch ought to be the best teacher in the
through others), and some interpersonal maturity business. He’s not, because he describes idiosyn-
(emotional intelligence) based on experience.” cratic events and experiences. I can’t do what he
Mike Useem: “Many managers will have known does in my role, my organization, and facing my
brilliant colleagues who had every answer but no problems. Instead, I need some frameworks, some
respect. Cognitive intelligence is a prerequisite for sense-making devices, and some tools to help me
most responsible positions, whether a NASA flight behave effectively in a variety of circumstances.
director or an investment bank manager. What dis- That means the best teachers are those who can
64 Academy of Management Learning and Education March

provide me with the theoretical frameworks, the Implications for Leadership Development
models, and the foundation tools that allow me to
1. The relationship between learning and lead-
succeed as a leader.”
ing is an important one. As Conger and Benjamin
Several of the scholars noted that leadership
(1999) have argued, an important feature of leaders
development programs are on the rise, and they
is their ability to instill a learning mindset
predicted a continued expansion and growing de-
throughout the organizations. Mike Useem echoes
mand for such offerings. During the revision of this
this view, arguing that effective leaders them-
manuscript, the Economist Intelligence Unit, a di-
selves have a “teachable” point of view—a mes-
vision of The Economist, published a special sup-
sage that defines what they want the company to
plement on executive education in which several achieve and how it will do so. He suggests both
articles evaluated and critiqued various executive must be conveyed in a form that others can readily
education programs based on their effectiveness learn and transmit. This notion is reflected in Mike
and value added. Coincidentally, the title of the Hitt’s conception of the importance of vision in
supplement was “Can Leadership Be Taught.” realizing “strategic” leadership and Steve Stumpf’s
As more corporate universities, training insti- view of leadership as going “beyond cognitions to
tutes, consultancies (both profit and nonprofit), and actions, communications, inspiring others, and being
nontraditional educational programs continue to a role model.”
enter the management education marketplace, a 2. Several of the educators argued that some
proliferation of new actors and organizations en- aspects of leadership are part of innate qualities.
gaged in leadership training will continue. Although these characteristics may be enhanced
Mike Useem: “Abbott Laboratories, a $13 billion through various learning experiences, there are
U.S. healthcare manufacturer with 57,000 employ- limits to the contribution of formal teaching to de-
ees, brings groups of 35 high-performing, high- velopment of such skills. This does not necessarily
potential directors and vice presidents together for mean that something cannot still be taught, but
3 weeks of leadership development over 9 months. like language, it may be much more easily inter-
Participants examine the leader’s role and respon- nalized early in life. As Chris Bartlett suggests,
sibilities at Abbott, they consider alternative lead- “some people are born as natural competitors or
ership approaches, and they receive feedback on driven achievers or empathetic people. These sorts
their own leadership style and impact.” of attitudes are more deeply embedded and less
Mike Hitt: “Colleges and universities (but not trainable than other skills and abilities. On the
necessarily colleges of business), businesses other hand, some of these characteristics, such as
themselves, corporate universities, and others [are good communication, are teachable.”
appropriate organizations for teaching leader- 3. As an extension of the points above, each
ship]. You are going to have many players in this educator argued that leadership skills are best
game. A lot of organization types can deliver skill acquired as part of a practical, experiential edu-
training. It is going to be difficult to sort out. And I cational program, suggesting that traditional
cannot easily predict what direction it will go.” classroom teaching methods are best for helping
students develop a general familiarity with some
attributes or characteristics that have been asso-
LEADERSHIP AND IMPLICATIONS FOR ciated with leadership, but not sufficient for ac-
MANAGEMENT EDUCATION quiring leadership skills. The group was divided
as to whether leaders themselves serve as effec-
In this interview and commentary, I reported on tive trainers or coaches for developing leadership
discussions with management scholars about skills, with several commentators arguing that the
whether leadership can be taught, as well as re- experiences of such figures are inherently idiosyn-
lated questions regarding the potential contribu- cratic. Hence, modeling or patterning behavior on
tion of management education to leadership devel- their experiences is ineffectual.
opment. Although there were distinct perspectives Again, Chris Bartlett provides a specific exam-
on the basic questions explored in these ex- ple: “But what is not coachable are the very lead-
changes, several themes and common perspec- ership skills admired by business schools in a
tives emerged. In the following, I draw from the figure such as Jack Welch— his ability to engage
comments and observations of these educators to people personally, the intensity, the incredible
derive some broader implications for assessing the competitiveness of the man, his ability to get in-
contribution of management education to leader- side the skin of and empathize [with others], and
ship development. his ability to challenge and stretch [members of
2003 Doh 65

the organization]. There are a lot of those skills that view article, Zaleznick argued that managers and
are built in to things that he was born with.” leaders differ in terms of motivation, personal his-
4. Many of the educators linked leadership char- tory, and in how they think and act. “Whether his or
acter to some aspect of social or ethical responsi- her energies are directed toward goals, resources,
bility, suggesting that leadership has a moral and organization structures, or people, a manager is a
ethical dimension beyond the more common defi- problem solver . . . . Leaders have a propensity to
nitions that emphasize motivation and power rela- influence moods, to shape expectations, and to
tionships. For example, Steve Stumpf suggested, establish direction. This is clearly seen in their
“leadership is about what you do to influence oth- personal attitudes and very active approach to-
ers to attain objectives, ethically, that they other- ward goals” (Zaleznick, 1992: 127). John Kotter ech-
wise would not have pursued successfully. To do oes this view in distinguishing between what lead-
this, leaders must be ethical, have integrity, be ers and managers are (and are not) able to
trustworthy, and have credibility to their stake- accomplish: “Leadership by itself never keeps an
holders.” Mike Hitt said that “the value set and operation on time and on budget year after year.
integrity is an important part of [leadership]. This And management by itself never creates signifi-
is a necessary but insufficient condition to make cant useful change” (1990: 3).
you an effective leader.” A number of the respondents in this forum ac-
Kim Cameron made the strongest case for link- cepted these distinctions— explicitly or implicit-
ing leadership to moral and ethical values: ly—while others argued that they are artificial. As
“I . . . believe that effective leaders in the 21st cen- Steve Stumpf argued above, “When a person in a
tury must have a well-developed sense of moral position of authority tells someone subordinate to
values and possess personal virtues (such as hu- them to do something— or else—that person is not
mility, compassion, integrity, and forgiveness). leading. We should reserve the term leadership to
When everything is changing, it is impossible to something other than directing or coercing.” Chris
manage change. Some stable or nonchanging Bartlett, on the other hand, takes issue with the
point must be identified in order to understand notion that management and leadership are fun-
what is changing. Moral values and virtues pro- damentally different skills:
vide the solid points that allow effective change
(and leadership) to occur.” Chris Bartlett argued: I think that the literature has created a false
“With the power of management comes enormous dichotomy. I guess it is useful pedagogically,
responsibility. We need to focus and draw the stu- and so people talk about leadership as differ-
dents’ attention to that. The respect of human dig- ent from management. They claim manage-
nity and achieving results through others [is essen- ment is about administration and control and
tial].” leadership is about mission and empower-
5. More fundamentally, vigorous debate contin- ment. I think that is underestimating manage-
ues over whether the skills or traits of managers ment. Good management is about achieving
and leaders are distinct, or whether management results through others and I think that it al-
and leadership are, in fact, part of the same whole. ways encompassed leadership. But if man-
This debate underpinned the varying responses to agement—like the corporate model— became
the questions posed here. Some scholars view identified with this hierarchical bureaucracy
leaders’ roles as closely associated with the man- and managers became administrative con-
agers’ roles and use the terms interchangeably. trollers, then we shouldn’t dispense with the
Others draw sharp distinctions between these two term just as we don’t dispense with organiza-
concepts. A classic definition of a leader is “some- tion because it became bureaucratic. Leader-
one who occupies a position in a group, influences ship is about achieving results through others
others in accordance with the role expectation of (and) good management is about achieving
the position and coordinates and directs the group results through others. I think that it (the con-
in maintaining itself and reaching its goal” (Raven cept of management) always encompassed
& Rubin, 1976: 37). A more contemporary perspec- leadership.
tive shifts the focus to interactions among leaders
and groups as a “process of influence between a
Implications for Management Education
leader and his followers to attain group, organiza-
tional and societal goals” (Avery & Baker, 1990: Management education has undergone extensive ef-
453). Among those who explicitly distinguish be- forts to refine, revise, and revisit pedagogical tools
tween leadership and management is Abraham and techniques. The emergence of leadership edu-
Zaleznick. In his classic 1977 Harvard Business Re- cation as a primary activity in business schools and
66 Academy of Management Learning and Education March

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Jonathan Doh is assistant professor of management in the College of Commerce and Finance,
Villanova University, where he is affiliated with the Center for Responsible Leadership and
Governance. A senior associate at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, Doh
serves on the executive faculty of GSBA-Zurich. His research interests include international
corporate strategy, business– government relations, and socially responsible leadership. Re-
cent publications have appeared in Academy of Management Review, California Manage-
ment Review, Organizational Dynamics, and Business & Society. He is coeditor (with Hildy
Teegen) and contributor to a forthcoming volume, Globalization and NGOs: Transforming
Business, Governments, and Society (Praeger Books, 2003).