Think of the characteristics that make you a leader. Were these characteristics taught to you at some point in your life? Did you see them displayed by another person? Or do you think you were born with them – intrinsic to your character? On April 12th, Trusteeship members met at McCormick & Schmicks in Beverly Hills to discuss such leadership characteristics and if they can be taught to future generations.
Moderator Kathryn Downing, Founder at Galileo Coaching, lead a distinguished panel through the evening’s conversation. The panel included Dr. Claudia Mitchell-Kernan, Former Vice Chancellor & Dean of Graduate Studies and current Professor of Anthropology and Psychiatry at UCLA and, also from UCLA, Dr. Judy Olian, Dean of Anderson School of Management. Rounding out the panel were Caroline Nahas, Managing Director of Korn Ferry International and Anna Ouroumian, Refounder, President and CEO of Academy of Business Leadership.
We began the evening’s discussion with a look at qualities that make an effective leader. Panelists sited surveys, studies and trends from lead recruiters, such as Caroline, on what they saw as effective leadership characteristics. Topping the list were outstanding communication skills, boldness and having energy and drive toward a vision. Caroline summarized, “My favorite is E.Q. (emotional quotient) … in the absence of emotional intelligence and the ability to see what’s going on around you, the other traits are just academic and don’t make much sense.”
Judy shared statistics regarding women’s leadership roles in both academia and the marketplace. She explained that nationally, women outnumber men at an undergraduate level 57% to 43%. However, the percentage of women at a graduate level drops dramatically. For example, 31% of UCLA Anderson School of Business is female. This pattern is also reflected in the marketplace. Females fill Fifty percent of entry-level jobs; however only 3% of CEOs at Fortune 500 companies are female. So what factors contribute to this decline, and what can we do to teach leadership to the next generation?
The panel agreed there has been a shift in the focus of teaching and inspiring the next generation in areas of leadership. While academic qualities were seen as very important, the focus stayed on more intrinsic characteristics. Judy explained “its no longer just about accounting or financial strategy or logistics. We prompt our students to think about what it means to lead a life of significance.” In agreement, Anna added that she focused on teaching these characteristics of significance and self worth to young people because “to be a leader of others you need to be a leader of yourself first”.
With emphasis on developing these intrinsic traits of leadership, there was concern that expectations of roles in a company were not being met. Caroline expressed, “I worry that we teach so much about leadership that graduates enter an organization looking for a leadership role and it doesn’t happen for quite some time.” She pointed out that leadership is often situational. Individuals need to be patient, put in the time to learn how an organization functions, and cater leadership to the specific organization.
The panel discussed ways to engage future generations and cultivate strong leadership characteristics while maintaining reasonable expectations upon entering an organization. Claudia added, “Occupying a leadership position can be really different from being a leader.” Building on this idea, Anna added “It’s important to encourage students to realize they are leaders NOW and that they don’t have to wait 20 years to show leadership.”
The panel sparked many interesting conversations allowing attendees to personalize how each might educate leaders in her own industry. And while each can encourage others toward leadership, Claudia summed up the conversation well, saying, “You can certainly teach leadership, but great leadership is in your gut”.