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Katherine Tyler Scott
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Katherine Tyler Scott

Katherine Tyler Scott is Managing Partner of Ki ThoughtBridge, a leadership consultancy, and is author, most recently, of Transforming Leadership: The Episcopal Church of the 21st Century. She is a board member of the International Leadership Association.

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.

By Katherine Tyler Scott

 |  May 18, 2010; 11:48 AM ET
Category:  Leadership development Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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I agree that we should not let leaders from the Ivy League schools dominate our political arena or business world.

If a person attends an Ivy League school, it does not prove that they are wiser or make the best decisions. It is my belief that wisdom comes from the Lord, and I would rather have a Christian from any college than an Ivy League honors graduate who does not lead in a way that pleases God.

We have had Ivy League leaders for the most part of 230 years in this country and look at the mess our country is experiencing. We have one problem on top of another and they cannot figure out how to resolve it.

We have the Oil leak gulf problem, no one can solve. We have the Iceland volcano problem no one can stop or solve. We have the financial crisis and high unemployment that has not been fixed. We have 300,000 teachers about to loose their jobs and no one can really figure out how to stop it. We have teen violence and we have drugs out of control. Then we have high crime in this country. We need a leader who really knows the Lord and does things his way. We need someone who rules rightly and not just hire his or her Ivy League friends.

Ivy League leaders is not the answer!

Posted by: knowdalaw | May 18, 2010 12:14 PM
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