November 19, 2009

Why Colleges Should Teach Leadership

My HBS student, Jonathan Doochin, has written a timely and important piece for, titled “Why Colleges Should Teach Leadership.” Doochin’s rationale for increased teaching of leadership in undergraduate universities is clear and compelling. He perceptively cites the reasons why it is important to develop well-grounded, values-centered leaders and openly challenges the traditional classroom model of learning and advocates the need for experiential learning.

I first met Doochin back in 2005 when he came to my office at Harvard Business School to describe his new Leadership Institute at Harvard College and ask me to speak about leadership to the more than 200 heads of Harvard’s student organizations. Later I interviewed him for my book, True North, where at 23 he became the youngest interviewee among 125 leaders in our study.  He shared his remarkable story of overcoming dyslexia and weight problems, thanks to the untiring efforts of his parents and a dedicated teacher named Ms. Jackson. In living through this severe crucible, he grew in confidence and was successful in being admitted to Harvard College, McKinsey consultants, and Harvard Business School.

Doochin’s ideas, if implemented, would represent an important step toward developing better leaders in America, rather than just focusing on training brilliant students who are seeking instant gratification through better grades and high paying jobs.