Are we preparing young students to become leaders or followers?

Updated on Oct 20, 2022 07:49 PM IST

Our students might have leadership potential but whether or not their skills are being fully utilized depends on the context in which they find themselves. The dilemma that arises here is whether we are educating young children to become leaders or followers.

Are we preparing young students to become leaders or followers? (Feedyourvision)
Are we preparing young students to become leaders or followers? (Feedyourvision)
ByZarafshan Shiraz, Delhi

Individuals can develop into effective leaders through exposure to instruction, practice and feedback; most of these are practiced across all education platforms. While learning to lead is a skill that may be acquired via study, observation and practice, anyone with access to the fundamentals can become a leader but there is a significant amount of leadership that cannot be taught and unfortunately, some students perform better as followers because they lack adequate resources or they may not respond well to certain teaching techniques.

Leadership is more art than science - it is a collection of inherent qualities that may be honed and perfected via exposure to new information and practice. Being at the right place at the right time also plays a role and our students might have leadership potential but whether or not their skills are being fully utilized depends on the context in which they find themselves hence, the dilemma that arises here is whether we are educating young children to become leaders or followers.

In an interview with HT Lifestyle Anuradha Uboweja, Country Head-India, Nrichminds, said, “The more pertinent and practical question to ask is whether we are teaching our students what to think or how to think; whether the education system is teaching our students what fishing is or how to fish? Our world is now fast moving towards ubiquitous deployment of artificial intelligence and automation – from driverless cars to self-healing systems. It is too late to ask if we are preparing students to become leaders or followers. The time is right only to ask how we are preparing students to be problem solvers and leaders; else we will have failed our future generations altogether.”

Commenting on the same, Anil Somani, Chairman at FOSTIIMA Business School in Delhi, said, “In today's era of intense competition, students have a lot more pressure to perform and give their best to be on top. From a young age, we should encourage students to adopt leadership skills and develop a clear understanding of their strengths, and weaknesses. Our education system is still a little far behind in this thing but during schooling or while pursuing higher education, more students should be encouraged to participate in various activities and take up responsibility. Participating in various activities builds up confidence, enhances leadership qualities and also sense of ownership. This way student should learn the art of resolving conflicts, grabbing opportunities and diffusing threats. Students who are taught to lead not only do better in life but inspire others, by empowering them with leadership thought process. Students should exercise humility, should be always willing to learn from their peers and seniors and imbibe their skills to become more effective leaders.”

According to Dr Kulneet Suri, Senior Director of IMS Noida, “Great leaders are purposeful and innovative. Leaders can change mindsets, achieve cohesion and transform culture. Leaders are role models; they build confidence and conviction within their teams. Instead of chasing money or power, materialistic goals, purposeful leaders look beyond themselves to serve others and create leadership teams who are high on Emotional Intelligence and can make better, informed decisions.”

She suggested, “As a leader, your job isn’t to be a follower but to be amongst the most capable. Your ultimate goal is to create an inclusive environment where people can compete and succeed. The most effective leaders are sincere and have high levels of positive intelligence. They build and guide teams that are upbeat, imaginative, interesting, and productive at work. In a meta-analysis, researchers have found that successful business outcomes are achieved through inclusive leadership and not by creating followers.”

Gaurav Tyagi, Founder of Career Xpert, opined, “Since the future of industry belongs to exceptional leaders, we must unquestionably develop our young generation as the new leaders of the era. Preparing students to be a leader and not only followers creates a sense of responsibility and dependability in them and helps them to create an inspiring vision for their future. Especially in the medical industry, if we’ll go like a follower then we’re just working as a regular doctor or just another medical practitioner. These days, everything is being transformed into privatization and everything is moving into the corporate sector. As a result, we require leaders who can use their leadership abilities to pursue the emerging industry. Leaders are those who step up when others are afraid to.”

Someone who emerges as a leader from among the masses was always destined for leadership while someone who has access to the best education, care and opportunity but still chooses to blend in with the masses as a passive follower is not destined for leadership. A student can be termed to be a follower if they are unwilling to take charge because they are afraid of the responsibility that comes with leadership. The ability to lead is like the ability to act well; not everyone has it. However, others have the potential to become leaders if they are taught the skills necessary to do so.

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