February 16, 2022

STUDENT ASSEMBLY VIEWPOINT | The Future of Leadership: Quantity over Quality?

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Is the value of leadership fading away? It seems like a silly question, but really, to what extent has leadership evolved to account for changing societal demands? The concept of leadership often surrounds the idea of a decision-making authority, assuming there are members of an organization who could not lead effectively. This concept, however, has not evolved nearly enough to match the changing contexts and growth of organizations, groups of people or industries. 

On a large scale, a leader emerges when there is a new startup, business, club or organization. On a smaller scale, they arise when a new task within an organization necessitates a strategy or vision — which is almost every task, by the way. 

According to Oberlo, a dropshipping company, new business statistics indicate that an increasing number of people in the United States have started their businesses over the past decade, with an average of two million new businesses a year. The steady rise in the number of organizations and the commensurate need for more leadership talent shows no sign of stopping. These organizations require two factors to build a strong foundation for success: money and leadership. Due to the expanding demand in leadership and management, teams gamble and often pick the most confident, charismatic person, assuming they can be a great leader. When (frequently) wrong, their choices cause a surplus of incompetent leaders and a short supply of great ones. 

Don’t get me wrong — the rise of businesses and organizations is one reason for this surplus. Another reason is that groups tend to overlook the value of training a leader, assuming that leaders are born with uniquely commanding characteristics. In reality, everyone can attain these “unique characteristics” when adequate training is accessible, and there are many opportunities to find it. This phenomenon then evens the playing field for all aspiring leaders, making it harder to differentiate someone qualified to be a good leader and qualified to be a great one, as everyone has or could have the same leadership characteristics. 

Over the next five years, the leadership deficit will become impossible to ignore as the absence of great leadership will profoundly affect the evolution of new organizations. We have to ask ourselves – how can we take action to preserve the value of leadership and train incompetent leaders into great ones? To answer those questions, you’ve come to the right place. Here are some ways we can do it:

  1. Invest: Organizations should invest more in leadership development programs. They should implement metrics to guide leadership growth and active opportunities for individuals to learn to fail forward within this program. Ultimately, the goal should be to prepare individuals who can step in and take their organizations to greater heights as next-generation leaders. It goes without saying: You reap what you sow.
  1. Evaluate: Embrace a positive feedback culture and hold individuals accountable. Additionally, set incentives for individuals to take on stronger leadership roles. Organizations can use explicit goal-setting and formal performance reviews to guarantee that a leader’s performance matches the expectations associated with their role.
  2. Explore: Individuals may take on leadership as a role, ability, collective noun or action. Just because an individual doesn’t embody the traditional mold of a leader doesn’t mean their unique perspective cannot advance the growth of an organization. Taking a chance on new talent pools could mean stronger creativity, execution and problem-solving.

The short-term effects of incompetent leadership are, unfortunately, bearable. However, teams will become frustrated over time, and the organization’s reputation will fall short of its potential. While the organization stumbles, the people who rely on a leader’s sense of direction and vision will suffer the most. 

However, we can create another future, one in which we place greater emphasis on the quality of leaders. We can avert the leadership crisis, or at least reduce it, in this future. A new generation of leaders can rise within organizations, pushing them to new heights.

A brighter future can arrive if we seize it, but we’ll need to put in the work. We must push leaders to become their best selves, or the great leadership shortage will develop with its stifling repercussions. Leaders can improve, or society’s endeavors can fail. The choice is ours.

Jenniviv Bansah is the Executive Vice President of the Student Assembly and a senior in the School of Hotel Administration. Comments may be sent to [email protected]Student Assembly Viewpoint runs every other Thursday this semester.