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James B. Pepper Rutland: 3 Things Business Schools get Wrong about Leadership

There is no doubt that leadership holds an essential role in business. This is particularly true in highly competitive environments or businesses that operate in highly competitive fields. In fact, if businesses that don’t operate in highly competitive fields aren’t careful, their own lack of leadership ethics can quickly create an environment ripe for takeover. […]

There is no doubt that leadership holds an essential role in business. This is particularly true in highly competitive environments or businesses that operate in highly competitive fields. In fact, if businesses that don’t operate in highly competitive fields aren’t careful, their own lack of leadership ethics can quickly create an environment ripe for takeover. Teaching business leadership is a complex and delicate process that many business schools are getting wrong. Here are three ways business schools are missing the mark when it comes to philosophies about leadership.

1. The best leaders don’t always have the most followers

Recently, Apple became the first $1 trillion-dollar publicly traded company in history. Yet, historically, Apple has only ever cornered about 25% of the total computing market share. In fact, Apple has never set out to dominate in their market, but rather to steadily control a stable, loyal and avid following. Being an industry leader doesn’t always mean being the biggest, it sometimes just means being the best.

2. There is no such thing as a “stereotypical” leader

If people were asked to define what a leader looks like, they might envision a king on his throne or a general directing his armies. In truth, however, a real leader might be just as likely to invite you over for tea and cookies as issue commands from on high. Sometimes leaders might go to great lengths to make their position clear, while others do their best to blend right in with the rank and file. The same way no two leaders look exactly the same, neither do they act the same way.

3. Leadership is not a title

Many business schools fail to address the true reality of leadership. A business or company can give you a title or you can even give yourself the highest title, but that doesn’t make you a leader. The thing that turns a person into a leader is not a title, but followers. A title, rank or paycheck may buy a certain amount of obedience, but true loyalty can only be earned. Leaders that depend on their title or ability to withhold a position or paycheck will quickly learn just how tenuous their position is the second the chips are down and they find themselves with no safety net.

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