The US is already one of the world’s major business hubs. With everywhere from Silicon Valley to Wall Street leading the way in terms of global commerce, America truly is a beacon for business. But this didn’t just come out of nowhere – and it’s down in part to the leadership provided by the directors, managers and CEOs who shaped our technological, financial and consumer firms into what they are today. In order to preserve the future competitiveness of the American economy, it’s important to make sure we are training up the business leaders of the future in the here and now.
This, though, is of course easier said than done. In order to lead a business, a person needs all kinds of characteristics in order to do the job well. Firstly, they need relevant qualifications – but they also need some experience, and a network of contacts. And what about their values and principles, and their moral code? This article will explore how these can be marshaled and preserved in order to secure American commercial success for future generations.
Perhaps the most important way in which tomorrow’s business leaders can be created is through educational systems designed to encourage more and more young people to study entrepreneurship and business in a way that is rigorous and of high quality. The most obvious manifestations for this are the business-related degree topics, such as economics, or indeed postgraduate qualifications, such as the MBA (Masters in Business Administration).
For those who perhaps want to enter business in the long term but don’t want to take an explicit business degree, other academic disciplines could prove more useful. History, for example, can provide business-friendly skills of sound judgment while also illustrating and imparting knowledge about the real world impact of economic and business decisions.
Going away to college is useful in the sense that it gives students the chance to become more knowledgeable about their chosen discipline – and for business-related courses or courses with transferable business skills, that’s invaluable further down the line as leadership positions open up. But there are other advantages to going to college, too, including the wide range of opportunities it presents to build your bank of experiences.
Building an experience of risk-taking is a great way to immerse yourself in the business world. At college, this may take the form of plunging yourself into a class option that is relevant to commerce but out of your comfort zone: if you’re particularly strategic but not hugely numerate, for example, an introductory mathematics course may be the push you need. For those who don’t go to college, this sort of propensity towards risk-taking can be achieved by moving away from home for a job, while the skills of resilience and creativity can be built by taking on two jobs at once and saving as much as possible for investment in a future endeavor.
There’s no doubt about it: going to college gives you the sort of contact book that those who don’t attend a higher education institution may find themselves lacking. It’s still possible to build up a network of useful people for your career if you don’t study at a higher education institution, of course, and often those who work themselves up from nothing will meet many people on the way. But college does offer a shortcut in some senses. Tutors in business disciplines may be entrepreneurs themselves, for example, and could end up providing their best students with offers of employment. And people you meet in campus societies, meanwhile, may turn out to be future colleagues.
Values-based leadership is a relatively new term, but it’s something that’s important to think about. When the founder or leader of a company has positive values, this often shines through in performance. An ethos of fairness, for example, means employees feel more engaged, while trustworthiness often leads to increased client retention. Negative values, however, can have the opposite effect. Sniping and nitpicking can cause an office to develop a toxic environment, while a propensity towards fraud and lies can lead to firms being closed down altogether. When business leaders attend Sigma Chi or another leadership training environment, they pick up the right sort of values – those that will help ensure our firms stay well-staffed and successful in the future.
Ensuring there are enough qualified and appropriate business leaders for the future, then, is essential. And there are plenty of ways to do it: from ensuring that students have the opportunities they need to join fraternities, study hard and build up contacts to providing funded and relevant programs that offer the chance to gain experience, there are plenty of ways to ensure the business world has the talent it needs to grow in the future.