Is Academia Failing to Develop Leaders? SEC Conference Example

SEC Logo - Scholars Champions Leaders

Tonight the top two college football teams of the year battled on the gridiron. There was no doubt these two schools developed athletic leaders. However, are the institutions behind these teams developing leaders off the field?

I recently wrote about our leadership failure in academia. So during tonight’s game, when I saw the Southeastern Conference (SEC) tagline of “Scholars. Champions. Leaders.”, I investigated the leadership development programs of their schools. For each school in the SEC conference, do they offer a Leadership minor, major or graduate program? Here are the results. Of the 14 schools in the Southeastern Conference:

  • Only 1 school offers a graduate program in leadership that is not specific to an industry or function
  • There are 7 schools with no leadership majors to offer undergraduates
  • There are 5 schools with no leadership minors to offer undergraduates
  • There is 1 school with no leadership-focused minor, major, or graduate program

Certainly, the SEC is not alone in this regard. I suspect most major conferences would reveal similar – or worse – results. Our academic failure of leadership development stems from this perspective:

  1. Every high school student is expected to possess leadership skills when applying for college
  2. Every college claims to produce great, future leaders
  3. Yet very few universities offer robust options for leadership development studies

Why does the development of future leaders continue to be a gap in academia, while we claim the opposite?


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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

2 thoughts on “Is Academia Failing to Develop Leaders? SEC Conference Example”

  1. Academia continues to act in its own selfish interests, placing profit over what was at one time considered and agreed to be right. Most academic institutions today are not much more than diploma mills, and themselves incapable of leading their glutted and incompetent staffs past anything more than the bank on payday. At one time, I felt Christian universities were a cut above, but some are merely incapable of walking the talk and also acting in their own best interests, pleasing shareholders and their own egos. Until we have proven leaders in these academic institutions, we will continue to see what we see everywhere else – poor leadership, and poor results.

    1. Agree with your assessment of academia, it is a cesspool. However it’s sustained not by it’s value to itself, but the value it has towards our large structural economic interests. In other words, leadership in today’s neo-liberal world mean revolutionaries. Why? The problems we face are not created from individuals serving themselves in a vacuum, but deep in the structures of our socio-economic system.

      Anyone who has leadership skills, and a can take a very broad view, realizes almost immediately that we’re designed for the results we presently yield. Believing that good leadership can overcome a structure designed to fail the majority of people, has always been the Utopian creed of fixing the defects of humanity on an individual spiritual basis, rather than then restructuring the systems so that they work harmoniously.

      This isn’t to say we won’t improve, we definitely will, but that will not change the nature of how things work. In the same way techno-utopians always claim the next technological improvement will somehow magically transform social order… they have never once in history, and they never will. We can improve things, in many different spheres, but we must change the structures of what we wish to see reflected.

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