Leadership in the Marketplace: How Leadership Education and Experience is Influencing the Success of Students and Organizations

Leaders are faced with many challenges in the marketplace, one of the most critical is in the selection of the right employees (Vogel, 2017).  The process of hiring and bringing on employees is one of the most vital aspects of any organization and poor selections can be quite costly.  In fact, selecting the wrong employee can add substantial financial costs to a company with many employers estimating those cost somewhere between 25K – 50K dollars (Hall, 2012).  This cost and importance have contributed to an ever-varied approach to hiring and then training in order to find the best candidate and employee (Reed, 2016).  In my experience, it is not only important to make the right selection it is equally as important to retain and train those employees, especially those looking to advance into leadership roles.  According to the Corporate Executive Board, 66% of companies invest in programs that aim to identify high-potential employees.  Even with all of that training only 13% of those same companies have confidence in their rising leaders and have not figured out how to fully develop their prospective senior managers and executives (Fernandez-Araoz, Roscoe, & Aramaki, 2017)

During the course of my 20+ years of leadership, I have had experience with guiding dozens of leadership programs.  With varying levels of success, each program has been ever changing and often required tremendous amounts of time and investment.  According to the Association for Talent Development, U.S. Companies spent 164.2 billion dollars on training and development in 2012 (ATD Staff, 2013). That same study identified leadership training as the number one area of focus (13.5%) above mandatory training and compliance (10.8%) and process, procedure and business practices (9.9%) (ATD Staff, 2013).   Academically speaking, Universities are investing in leadership degree programs at a remarkable rate (Greenwald, 2010).  In my own academic pursuits, I have witnessed firsthand the evolution of leadership education as professors continued to learn and teach emerging concepts rooted in science.  When leadership programs at the University level were first developed they were often geared toward the charismatic approach and did not garner the same level of regard and respect as other behavioral science programs (Greenwald, 2010), that is not the case with more current contemporary offerings (Greenwald, 2010).   

This contrast between corporate training and academic learning can be quite different, yet valuable.  Clearly, the investments made by organizations and universities indicate a desire and need for balanced and well-developed leaders, which is why I find the teaching model at SEU at Celebration so unique and interesting. 

Students at SEU at Celebration will have the opportunity to learn from an exceptional faculty while receiving unique mentorship as well as guidance from industry experts. This three-prong approach has individual components that show true value to students and potential employers alike. 

The ability to offer both traditional and online learning allows for greater flexibility and choice.  The quality of online education has been improving rapidly and potential gaps in quality are shrinking (Chen, Jones, & Moreland, 2017).  This balance in offerings at SEU at Celebration allows for quality instruction regardless of the delivery method. 

The additional opportunity to connect with industry experts enhances the learning experience exponentially.  The ability to connect with “real-world” experts in the field has the potential to increase development by 3.6X (Feser, 2017 ).  This intersection between the college experience and the workplace can and should have tremendous upside for a student. Students that have exposure to the workforce directly have a greater propensity for self-recognition, enhanced social relationships, and practical skills and are more prepared to handle the pressures of full-time employment post-graduation (Regmi & Anup, 2015)

The third element of the SEU at Celebration education model, access to mentorship, is a unique component.  Mentorship helps to increase retention and productivity (Stewart & Harrison, 2016).  The relationship and dialogue between mentor and mentee help to improve communication and personal skills as well as assisting in demonstrating leadership and management qualities (Stewart & Harrison, 2016).  I have also witnessed mentorship beyond the personal growth.  It can be extremely powerful to know that someone is invested in you and cared for and can often time be the most impactful aspects of one’s professional development (Wubbe, 2017).

Each of these elements individually would be a substantial component of any educational experience, the three combined have the potential to be transformational.  This model is applicable to all of the degree programs.  There is, however, one program in particular that address leadership in the workplace.  The Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Professional Leadership is the type of program that addresses what appears to be occurring in many workplaces, the fact that many individuals in leadership positions are lacking critical skills (Ryan, 2016).  

Developing leadership skills and the idea of working in teams can be valuable to any student (Schullery & Gibson, 2001).  In my professional experience, leading teams, the ability of an employee to demonstrate skills of a leader adds tremendous value to any business unit.   Every member of a group has the potential to be placed in a position of leadership (Schullery & Gibson, 2001).  Often the situation may dictate the need for some to lead from where they are.  John Maxwell discusses this idea of leading from where you are in his book The 360 Degree Leader where he surmises that individuals can lead others from anywhere in the organization, and when they do they make the organization better (Maxwell, 2005).  This idea that all levels of the organization can lead is a powerful one.  Often, situations will dictate the need for unique skills, experience, and styles.  Individuals who have not only experience but an education on the science of leadership can often be better prepared to be a guiding voice.  Training leaders at any level, even current leaders in tenured roles has immediate and substantial positive impact on performance and organizational culture (In practice, 2016).

Examining the organizations I have been part of, from the military to telecommunications, there is a need for positive and strong leaders.  There are serious consequences to an organization that is not comprised of “good” leaders (Burns, 2003).  It is often easy to recognize poor leadership through blatant acts that are unethical or immoral (Burns, 2003), however poor leadership can also be less apparent and more related to skill deficiency, burn out, arrogance, or lack of knowledge (McCall & Lombardo, 1983). Many individuals may have inherent traits or qualities that lend themselves to leadership roles.  However, often I find that these individuals lean into inherent gifts without learning and gaining additional skills of leadership.  There are many great leadership books available and I encourage teammates to read often, however, there is also proven value to the power of a formal education in a university system (Surveys, 2014).  The most successful leaders that I have met approach leadership through traditional learning and experience combined. 

Beyond the traditional workplace, I have also met and spent time with many entrepreneurs at varying levels of success.  In my discussions with them the topic of leadership often comes up, especially as their companies expand and they begin hiring their first employees.  Entrepreneurs are often also highly involved in their communities (Hull, 2013).  As they develop and learn new leadership skills they have the potential to not only improve their organization but they can have a substantial positive impact on their local environment (Hull, 2013).

Ultimately my research and experience have indicated a substantial need for quality leaders.  Whether an adult learner who is looking to expand their career within their organization, an entrepreneur growing his or her business or a student entering college with hopes of meaningful employment, a program designed to develop leadership will not only be desirable to employers but highly beneficial to students.  The marketplace is looking for leaders and investing in them at every opportunity.  Marketplaces are indicating a growing need for qualified leaders, a marketplace is not simply comprised of employees but the communities of which they are part of.  The Bachelor’s Degree in Business and Professional Leadership at SEU at Celebration appears to be not only needed but timely as well.


Works Cited

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Hull, P. (2013, October 4). Forbes.com. Retrieved from Entrepreneurs Should be Community Leaders: https://www.forbes.com/sites/patrickhull/2013/10/04/entrepreneurs-should-be-community-leaders/#496fd01e3325

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Ryan, L. (2016, May 26). Seven Leadership Skills Most Managers Lack. Retrieved from Forbes.com: https://www.forbes.com/sites/lizryan/2016/05/26/seven-leadership-skills-most-managers-lack/#4b46c0957ebb

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Surveys, R. o. (2014). EPI Study of Income Statistics Finds Value in College Education.

Vogel, D. (2017). Haas Research on Leadership: An Introduction. California Management Review, 5-7.

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Dr. Matt Cohen