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The following article was written by Coleman Patterson and appeared in the Business section of the Abilene Reporter-News.

Leadership remains a key skill to develop, October 14, 2007, 2D.

Explore the books in the business section of any popular bookstore and you will find a seemingly endless array of books devoted to leadership and management development.  Some of those are self-help books, others try to sell a particular course or method of leadership development, and others are more theoretical in nature.

In addition, there are a variety of leadership development courses offered through colleges and universities, community education programs, and business development and consulting firms.  The reason that there is so much attention paid to leadership development is that effective leadership is critical to all types of organizations and because it is so complicated.  From an academic perspective, leadership development requires training in psychology, sociology, management, economics, political science, history, critical thinking, communication, ethics, and other fields that provide insight into the understanding of human behavior in individual and group work environments.   The study of leadership from the perspectives of those disciplines takes considerable time and effort.

As beings living in the times of the most remarkable discoveries and inventions that mankind have ever known, we like to think of ourselves as “cutting edge” in all realms of science and discovery—this includes leadership studies and development.  However, the ideas that people need to study philosophy, history, and human nature before assuming positions of responsibility in society is nothing new.

Plato (428-347 B.C.) wrote in The Republic that the solution required to break the reciprocal nature of tyranny and democracy in an ideal society is leadership education and development.  “…Until philosophers are kings, or the kings and princes of this world have the spirit and power of philosophy, and political greatness and wisdom meet in one, and those commoner natures who pursue either to the exclusion of the other are compelled to stand aside, cities will never have rest from their evils.”  Plato continued that line of reasoning by stating, “…There will be discovered to be some natures who ought to study philosophy and to be leaders in the State; and others who are not born to be philosophers, and are meant to be followers rather than leaders.”  He goes on to explain that the philosophers of which he spoke are those who love knowledge, are averse to corruption and ambition, and seek truth, justice, courage, and temperance.  Only after years of training and education, are Plato’s philosophers prepared to govern the State.

Regardless of whether people intend to lead organizations or local, state, and national governments, they should seek training and education to accelerate their leadership abilities.   Rather than learning simply through personal experience and trial and error, would-be leaders can learn leadership philosophies and skills more rapidly and efficiently through education and training.  Training programs should expose participants to the rules, principles, and philosophies of leadership, teamwork, and organization as well as provide opportunities for skill development in communication, critical thinking, problem solving, conflict resolution, creativity, and persuasion and influence.  Leadership development is just as important today as it was 2,400 years ago in the time of Plato.

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2006, 2007, 2008  Coleman Patterson, All Rights Reserved