by Dr. Miles Davis
Dean, The Byrd School of Business
Those of us in the field of leadership and business development are asked this question quite often. You won’t be surprised to learn that I believe leaders can be made, since the making of future business leaders is at the heart of our mission and curriculum here at the Harry F. Byrd, Jr. School of Business. It is not, however, a question to be dismissed lightly, and the complexity of leadership requires us to look at the question seriously and critically.
It appears that leadership is often a blend of innate ability, education, training, and experience, with innate ability only accounting for about a fourth of the whole. Researchers have identified traits such as extraversion, charisma, and intelligence (or perceived intelligence) that are often associated with leaders, but these traits appearing in youth are not as predictive of future leadership effectiveness as one might think. They must be coupled with training, conditioning, and experience. Equally important are other traits that can be developed and cultivated such as social intelligence, responsibility, and empathy, as well as listening and analytical skills—traits that are often found naturally among introverts.
What we see time and again with our students at the Byrd School of Business is that no matter what their background or whether they are extraverts or introverts, they will become strong leaders when they embrace the following:
- They are committed and focused.
- They immerse themselves in the curriculum to build a strong academic foundation.
- They observe and benefit from the real world experience of our outstanding faculty.
- They take advantage of internships, mentorships, and other leadership opportunities.
- They work on self-awareness and self-development.
Every day I see future leaders being made. Never have I been so confident about the future.