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Can Leadership be Learned?

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This week I had the honor of hosting General John E. Michel in my podcast Leading Beyond the Status Quo to tackle the question;

Can leadership be learned?

As the General explains, in the Military, their goal is to help individuals activate the latent talent that is within them to accomplish extremely complicated assignments.

General John E Michel

I completely agree with the General in his view that no one is born with all the necessary traits not only to lead, but to lead well.

During the interview, the General and I discussed a very honest article, posted by a student at K-State Collegian on her negative experience with a leadership program and her sincere opinion that leadership is something that can NOT be learned.   

While we understand the student’s perspective after she saw many of her peers struggling to lead through projects, we both feel that this is exactly the purpose of these leadership programs.  

Leadership is not something that comes easy.  It takes practice and courage to take the lead during difficult or chaotic situations.  The fact that the student and her peers struggled to lead is no surprise, and, in no way does their struggle mean that leadership programs are a waste of time.  

The main reason students go to college is to learn and learning often includes struggling and failing.  Good leaders learn from their struggle and failures,

General John E. Michel quote

instead of giving up and dismissing the experience as a waste of time.

During the interview, the General also debunks the myth that leadership in the military is about commanding others and barking orders.  Instead, he shares how military leadership is about creating inclusive cultures that involve people and use their strengths in the co-creation of a better tomorrow.

In his current assignment, the General leads men and women from 15 nations towards the collective goal of building a self-sustaining and independent Afghan Air Force.  This is the third global multibillion dollar assignment for the General.

Without the ability of all the amazing women and men that have worked with the General to learn how to lead through adversity, they would not have a chance of reaching their goal.  The General himself is a model of how someone can become a superior leader by learning from difficult experiences and careful reflection.  

He is an inspiration and a walking, breathing example that leadership can indeed be learned.  

To subscribe to Leading Beyond The Status Quo on iTunes, go to:

It’s your turn.

~Do you feel that if a subject matter is difficult, it should not be taught?

~Should we do away with college courses because some students fail at times?

~Do you have any examples that show how leadership can be learned?

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Al Gonzalez

Founding Partner - GIVE Leadership Institute, LLC