New Study: Only 15% of Schools Offer Leadership Programs

Heat map of percentage of institutions with leadership programs, in the United States, by state.
Heat map of percentage of institutions with leadership programs, in the United States, by state

Does anyone believe we have enough good leaders in politics? What about the workplace? I didn’t think so.

In the “Be the Good” TEDx talk, I mentioned we have so many bad bosses, that we tend to find poor leadership acceptable – even expected. Yet, nobody seems to ask the question, “why?”. Why are there so many bad leaders? So we set out to identify the root-cause of bad leadership in America. The answer, we found, is our failure to offer leadership development programs at post-secondary institutions in the United States. The new study uncovers this root-cause and explains the details in a full report.

Radiant Forest, LLC evaluated data from 2000 to 2018 in 50 states and 6,857 institutions. The results showed only 15% of all colleges and universities in the study offer leadership programs. You read that right – only FIFTEEN percent. The data is based on federally funded schools in the United States and examines 2,155 different programs offered at 6,857 schools from 2000 through 2018 (the most recent year data is available). The findings also ranked the top states and institutions for supporting different heritages and by gender. 

The news is not all bad though. In the years studied, the percentage of schools offering leadership programs tripled. There is also great growth in the percentage of minorities studying leadership. In fact, the overall percentage of students studying leadership has matched, if not exceeded, the expansion of opportunity.

Other Highlights from the Study

States with the highest percentage of post-secondary institutions offering leadership programs:

  1. South Dakota
  2. Washington DC
  3. Nebraska
  4. Alaska
  5. Indiana

Institutions with the largest percentages of students studying leadership include:

  1. Lamar University (TX)
  2. Wilmington University (DE)
  3. National University (CA)
  4. Montclair State University (NJ)
  5. Western Governors University (UT)

Recommendations from the Study

1. Hiring organizations should expect more from post-secondary institutions.

As employers send recruiters and resources to schools, they should set higher expectations. Schools that do not offer leadership programs to their students should be incentivized to do so in the future.

2. Organizations should align their expectations of leadership development education with other professional fields and functions.

To complete a trade school program, most students complete about 2,000 hours of effort. A Masters degree requires about 6,500 hours. Yet most people leaders are lucky if they received 150 hours of study in leading others.

Chart displaying typical hours invested in study for different programs, with leaderhip study being the smallest by far at 128 hours.

3. States should support institutions seeking to develop leadership programs.

Taxes play a big role in the funding of many post-secondary schools. States should invest more highly at institutions offering leadership development programs.

4. The worst performing institutions should quickly develop leadership programs.

Large institutions that still fail to offer any form of leadership development program should leverage this study to get started immediately on implementing these programs.

The full study is available now at Study methodology can be seen here.


Picture of Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner

Ben Lichtenwalner is the founder and principal of Modern Servant Leader and Radiant Forest, LLC. He has studied and promoted servant leadership awareness and adoption for over 20 years. He is the author of 2 leadership books and has 2 decades of corporate management and leadership experience. His corporate experience spans CIO, VP, Director, and many management roles at Fortune 500, INC 500, and Nonprofits. Ben’s education includes a B.S. in Management Science & Information Systems from Penn State University and an MBA from Lehigh University. Ben's Full Profile Here: About Ben Lichtenwalner

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