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Scientists Transform People Into Leaders in 15 Weeks

Update Date: Oct 06, 2014 06:11 PM EDT

Leaders can be made in 15 weeks, according to a new study.

Just as inventor Thomas Edison once said " Genius: one percent inspiration and 99 percent perspiration," it is generally believed that leadership is 30 percent nature and 70 percent nurture.

Despite the percentages, researchers believe they have discovered a method to maximize leadership development. Researchers from the University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences discovered that people could become better leaders in just 15 weeks.

"In only 15 weeks in our introductory class, students reported significant gains in three important components of leadership: self-efficacy, or confidence in their ability to lead; skills; and motivation to lead," Professor Kari Keating, who teachers leadership courses in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences' agricultural leadership education major, said in a news release.

Researchers said the latest findings show that teaching leadership development is a science.

"It's a three-legged stool: we call it being ready, willing, and able. Students first become ready to learn about being a leader; then they become willing to learn the skills necessary to practice leadership; and finally they're able to lead because they have the skills and the motivation to do it. You can't really move on to the other legs of the stool until you've achieved a certain amount of this readiness," Keating explained.

While students who start the course saying 'I don't really think of myself as a leader' or 'I'm not confident in my abilities,' don't show improvement in being willing and able in 15 weeks, the course can lead to dramatic improvements in readiness.

"It's like a math class. You're not ready to do calculus if you don't know the basics of algebra," he noted. "This shows us we need to work on readiness so students can make the most of advanced leadership courses."

Researchers noted that participants with leadership readiness who tell themselves "I've got this, I'm a leader," experience different improvements and become more willing to lead

 "The definition we use in the course is that leadership is an individual influencing a group of people toward a common goal. So how do you influence people? You can lead through your interactions, your relationships, your communication, the way you express thanks, your ethics," Keating explained. "Leadership isn't done in a vacuum. It's done with others."

The findings are published in the Journal of Leadership Education.

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