by Kirk A. Randazzo, Ph.D.
In a recent article from the Harvard Business Review, Jack Zenger indicated that, on average, individuals receive their first comprehensive leadership training at age 42 (see Figure 1), almost 10 years after they are appointed in a managerial or supervisory position. Moreover, fewer than 10% received any training before age 30. For the rest of the article, Zenger articulated why this pattern was bad for corporations seeking better leaders. Ultimately, his conclusion was that leadership training needed to happen much earlier.
The pattern identified by Zenger should serve as an opportunity to younger individuals seeking a competitive advantage on the job market. Since corporate America is not investing in leadership training until individuals demonstrate they are ‘leaders’, it becomes vitally important to gain these skills prior to employment. Consequently, the more leadership training that individuals can acquire on their own, the more successful they should be in finding ideal jobs and gaining promotions in those jobs. At a basic level, this training allows individuals to demonstrate that they 1) have the ability necessary to develop a vision; 2) have the skills necessary to communicate this vision accurately and convince others to join; and 3) can design an effective strategy to set goals which effectively implement this vision. Moreover, leadership training provides individuals with the skills necessary to interact with people and understand organizational dynamics – skills which are vitally important in every profession.
So where can individuals learn more about leadership at the University of South Carolina? Fortunately, there are several units across campus involved in leadership education and providing meaningful opportunities to become a more effective leader. Yet, until now it was difficult to obtain information about these opportunities unless one already knew where to look. Thankfully, the creation of the Carolina Leadership Initiative (CLI) helps fill this void. Its mission is to actively and enthusiastically promote, encourage, and facilitate leadership at the University of South Carolina in the following areas: 1) Education and Training; 2) Research and Discovery; 3) Engagement, Service and Outreach; and 4) Recognition and Communication. To accomplish these goals the CLI sponsors several new projects and partnerships.
First, at the CLI website everyone can find a ‘one-stop shop’ for all things involving leadership. This includes links to the units and programs on campus involved in leadership education, development, and experiences.
Second, individuals can learn more about the newly created minor in Leadership Studies. This program allows anyone to gain essential training in leadership, public speaking, organizational/group dynamics, management, ethics, diversity, and communication while providing opportunities to put these skills and strategies into practice in meaningful ways.
Third, each year the CLI sponsors several undergraduate Leadership Scholars who are committed to making a difference for the public good. These individuals receive up to $8000 to develop and implement an idea that will benefit the greater Columbia community. Throughout the year Leadership Scholars meet regularly to discuss aspects of leadership and learn from experts in a variety of different fields.
Fourth, the CLI hosts the annual President’s Leadership Dialogue. This year’s event will occur on February 25 at 7:00 p.m. in Drayton Hall. Our guest speaker is Deogratias Niyizonkiza from Burundi. His personal story of courage and overcoming adversity make him the ideal candidate to speak with us about leadership and dedication. The event is free and open to the public.
Finally, the CLI is partnering with several units on campus such as the Division of Student Affairs, USC Connect, the Capstone Scholars Program, the Center for Teaching Excellence, and many more to develop additional programs and projects.
Why is leadership important? Because without leaders groups and organizations have difficulty maintaining momentum and achieving goals. Because the skills needed to become more effective leaders can be used to develop more meaningful relationships with other people. Because a better understanding of leadership and its many different dynamics and situations may make you more competitive when searching for that ideal job. Because leadership offers you an opportunity to make a positive difference in your corner of the world or sphere of influence. And, the Carolina Leadership Initiative is here to help you get started on the path!