No Ivy monopoly on leadership
Q: Elena Kagan's nomination has raised the prospect of an "all-Ivy" Supreme Court. Is it a good idea for any institution, or any sector of society, to rely so heavily on a handful of elite universities to educate and train its leaders?
The question posed reflects a zero-sum language and exposes the cultural bias and the assumed intellectual ability that automatically comes with the imprimatur of an Ivy League education. We should all want the best and brightest people in positions of leadership whether in business, government, education, philanthropy or the civil/social-service sectors.
Effective leadership demands a certain level of intellectual ability, but it alone is no guarantee of success. The qualities of emotional intelligence are known to also affect leadership capacity and bottom-line results. A leader's self-knowledge, emotional and psychological health is just as important as IQ.
There is concern that relying too much on one institution, or category of institutions, for leaders is that we will end up with leaders who all look and think alike. Nothing is further from the truth. The true gift of many Ivy league institutions is the wide range of diversity they invite and hold as a value. Our son's graduation from Harvard was a "mini United Nations experience" and his circle of friends a reflection of the reality of global diversity.
The problem is when we actually believe that smart, competent, emotionally secure leaders exist in only a few select academic institutions. Whenever there is a hierarchy, it is bound to exclude a number of highly capable people, rendered invisible by virtue of position, background, ethnicity, income, or origin of degree. Yes, great leadership can be found in Ivy League institutions, and it exists in other educational entities as well. We should never permit any institution, or elite group of institutions, to be the sole source of leadership, because no one institution possesses all of the best and brightest.
Realistically, we know that an institution with the established credibility of Harvard, Yale, or Wellesley gives their graduates who become candidates for leadership positions an edge. It takes more work to select someone from an institution that lacks the public prestige and assumptions of competency that accompany an Ivy League degree. But it is a huge mistake to think any such institution has the monopoly on preparing and supplying capable leadership. Finding the best and the brightest inevitably means looking far beyond our comfort zones.
Posted by: knowdalaw | May 18, 2010 12:14 PM
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