Our Leadership Failure in Academia

Man in suit has head buried in sand with graduation cap on his rear

Every high school senior has one goal in common when applying to college: displaying leadership qualities.

Every higher learning institution has this as an “expectation” of applicants. Then, these same institutions all claim they develop students to be great leaders by the time they graduate. They may describe it in a different manner. They may even define leadership different. However, they all claim to be a great institution for building future leaders.

Now, how many of these institutions actually have a course in leadership as a core requirement? Very few. A tiny percentage of schools offer programs to minor or major in leadership studies. Even fewer actually require students to study a single course in leadership to graduate.

To be clear:

1. High schools don’t teach it
2. Universities expect it of applicants
3. Universities do not require students to study it

So, where do we expect future leaders to develop their leadership skills?

Is it any wonder why we have a crisis of leadership? It seems like academia plays a key role in our failure to build effective leaders.

What do you think? Do we have a leadership failure in academia?

About the Author:

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder ModernServantLeader.com - the leading blog on servant leadership and top 35 site for any leadership topic, globally. Ben also speaks and consults on IT and management topics for a large variety of clients. Find out more about him at https://ModernServantLeader.com.


  1. Daniel Buhr April 3, 2015 at 11:49 am - Reply

    And far too often when they do provide “leadership” training it’s actually about management, not leadership. I agree, there is a leadership failure in academia. Thanks for a spot-on post, Ben!

  2. Mona April 4, 2015 at 1:24 pm - Reply

    Excellent question, excellent comments!

    Where do we expect
    leaders to develop their leadership skills? One source is role models.
    Modeling successful leaders such as great teachers, mentors, coaches,
    leadership champions and yes — parents (during the early years), makes a
    tremendous impact on growing next generation leaders.

    only does “servant business leadership” need to be taught, so does
    “personal leadership”. How many schools, businesses, religious
    institutions and other organizations offer training in personal
    responsibility, accountability, life planning and personal finances?
    Some do, more is needed. If a person can’t lead their own personal life,
    how effective will he or she be in leading others?

    Going back
    to the early days, character, a major trait in servant leaders, is
    highly influenced by role models in the family. Good parenting is
    paramount. It’s not all up to the educational system. Parents and other
    influential adults have a huge impact on character development.

    Schoolers may have access to introductory business courses, yet most
    get very little education and opportunity to develop leadership skills
    unless they run for student council or lead other school activities.

    back to college, while the college classroom can’t be everything to
    everyone, it would help to offer more courses in leadership development
    basics. It would also be great if there was a mechanism to connect
    students to mentors, coaches and champions. More internship
    opportunities working alongside proven servant leaders would be

    The quest to growing great leaders is an ongoing
    journey with loads of challenges. It’s starts very early in life where
    character begins to form, moves into the educational arena where peer
    pressure comes into play, onward into work place politics, and beyond…

    both personal and business leadership skills requires sound solutions.
    We need more servant leader role models to grow the next generation.

    • Ben Lichtenwalner April 4, 2015 at 1:58 pm - Reply

      All great points, Mona. As I read your comment, one thought echoes in mi mind: “It takes a village”. Thanks for sharing!

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