Many schools and colleges say they produce tomorrow’s leaders. So if you want an education for your child that will turn her into a leader, you have some choice. But think hard before you decide — becoming a leader is a tough path to follow, and has little to do with creativity, innovation or being able to manage modern organizations.
In the bad old days, leaders were thought to be born and not made. Leadership positions were reserved for the British, but there was some training for colonial leadership in British public schools and universities. It is telling that Mahatma Gandhi, Jawaharlal Nehru, Muhammad Ali Jinnah and B.R. Ambedkar attended universities in the UK, as did Indira Gandhi and Rajiv Gandhi.
But the truth is that modern education has little to do with producing leaders. Modern education is about producing managers, artists, sportsmen, thinkers and doers. It aims to produce healthy people who can interact, participate, collaborate and innovate productively.
In many ways, it is the antithesis of individual leadership. Instead of producing leaders and the led, it is designed to produce balanced, free-thinking, creative individuals. True democracy replaces leaders with elected representatives, and the more social democracy that exists, the more society needs citizens who can interact as equals in any number of environments and industrial contexts.
Of course, managers need skills in getting people to do what is wanted and modern societies require a wide variety of management skills — far too many to be embodied in any one person. We get around this by educating and employing specialists to help make and implement decisions.
Postmodern organizations are professionally run by highly paid managers, and the “leaders” are reduced to hiring the best managers and having “vision”. Old-fashioned leaders are replaced by high-powered managers working on agreed systems.
Good managers have the ability to manage those above and below them, and apply hard and soft skills to get the job done. But if all leaders were good managers, the world would be a very different place. Sadly, they are not. It is to do with the selection procedure.
In most societies, leaders usually come from the wealthy — or have wealthy friends to finance, encourage and create opportunities for them. Studies have shown that many leaders have particular personality traits. Huge numbers of leaders in every sphere are afflicted with obsessive-compulsive personality disorder that is characterized by a general psychological inflexibility, conformity to rules and procedures, perfectionism, moral code and excessive orderliness. Many have addictive personalities, and large numbers are addicted to work. They will often have little time for their personal lives — family, hobbies or relaxation. Many suffer from degrees of megalomania — a mental disorder that is marked by feelings of personal omnipotence and grandeur.
Several features of their personal histories also seem to play a part in how leaders relate to the world. Common to many male leaders is a significant period of childhood when their father was absent. Howard Gardner, a distinguished educationist, argues that this often leads to them acquiring a precocious dependence on themselves. In the case of great leaders such as Winston Churchill, Gandhi and Nelson Mandela, adversity and loneliness in childhood forge such self-reliance. Even not-so- great leaders such as Tony Blair, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were shaped by their fathers’ absence in childhood.
So, the first thing you need if you want your child to be a leader is to have pots of money. If that’s not the case, send them to a school where they can bond with children of those with pots of money. Make sure it is a school that has an obsessive-compulsive attitude to something. One that is obsessive about exam results will do. Though, of course, the school’s ability to transmit this obsessive compulsion to the child is a must.
To ensure the child develops an obsessive- compulsive personality, make sure the school demands excessive orderliness and inflexible conformity to rules, procedures and morality. A school that promotes megalomania by instilling feelings of superiority and personal empowerment will also go a long way in turning your child into a future leader. However, remember the school can’t do it all. You, too, will need to do your bit to encourage obsessive-compulsive megalomania, and turn it into addictive behaviour.
And those fathers who send their children to boarding school and ignore them during holidays will be helping their children become leaders!
You should realize only a very few can be leaders, and for the thousand that aspire, only a few would make it — and the cost is a lifetime.
Better to send your children to a school that will make them good life managers. If you do, they’ll have a much better chance of a good life.
Abha Adams is an education consultant. She will write a monthly column on training and education as they relate to careers and the workplace. Respond to this column at email@example.com