There’s a better way to train leaders: Allio interview with Barbara Kellerman

EMSTL Professor Robert Allio

From Elon Musk’s unmuzzled behavior to Sheryl Sandberg’s questionable ethics, it’s easy to lose faith in today’s business leaders, and the leadership training industry that has grown up around them. As Brown University Executive Master in Science and Technology Leadership (EMSTL) Professor Robert Allio writes in the introduction to the latest edition of Strategy and Leadership (S&L),

We experience a continuing drought in the development of leaders who are both effective and ethical. No matter that business schools and consultants offer aspiring leaders inoculations of charisma, presence, competence, and wisdom. Sometimes they caution that the process may take 12-18 months, but others claim that a month or a week of training will suffice. Such temerity. Indeed, more than one observer has indicted the entire leadership industry as a fraud perpetrated on the gullible consumer.

But, don’t give up yet says Allio, who is also the author of numerous books and articles on leadership. Based on his extensive academic and executive experience, Allio takes a new approach to leadership training that calls for:

  • A critical analysis of leaders throughout history
  • Contextualization, or the situation specifics, of leadership
  • An extension of agency to followers
  • Rigorous practice
  • The right tools and mentors for professionals to cultivate an authentic leadership style

Allio is not alone in his quest to redefine leadership. For a fascinating critique of today’s leadership training industry and insight for new direction, we invite you to read Allio’s S&L interview with Barbara Kellerman, the James MacGregor Burns Lecturer in Leadership at the Kennedy School of Harvard University. Titled, There’s a better way to train leaders, the interview explores her thoughts on leadership training including the need for credentialing, an ethical code, and a fundamental rethinking of leadership “as a system” where “leaders and followers interact.”

The interview concludes with Kellerman saying,

You want to grow good leaders in your organization or institution? Leaders who are as ethical as effective? If the answer to either of these questions is ‘Yes,’ let me repeat my mantra: Think leadership education. Think leadership training. Think leadership development. Each of these can be adapted to your organization’s special situation. But each of these constitutes a critical part of the programmatic whole.

When asked how Brown University approaches leadership training in its executive programs, including the EMSTL course he teaches, Effective Leadership: Theory and Practice, Allio commented,

In our approach to teaching contemporary leadership practice at Brown, we examine the interaction of leaders with followers in a variety of situations. But we also invoke Brown’s strength in the humanities to provide students with a deeper perspective on who the leader is, what the leader does, and the leader’s style. And each student then becomes the architect of his or her model for leadership effectiveness.

You can read the full S&L interview here.

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