Leadership Can’t Be Taught, But It Can Be Learned


Much of my educational background focuses on the study of leadership and it is a course that I teach in the Department of Liberal Studies at Humber College in Toronto.

As an elective, students sign up for various reasons; some say they want to become better leaders and some just didn’t want to take the elective on vampires that was offered instead.

Regardless of intention, they are there and we have the opportunity to explore different concepts related to leadership.

On the first day of the course, I explain to my students that I can’t teach them ‘leadership’ – it’s not something that is taught. However, it is something that can be learned.

My role is to facilitate an environment where they can take the leadership concepts that we discuss and apply them to their context, regardless of their industry or the program they are enrolled in.

We have a discussion about who we identify as leaders and, in each class I have taught, the leaders that are mentioned are positional, political and celebrities.

Through personal and professional development, my goal over the course is for my students to view themselves as leaders and consider the impact that they have and can have. This can occur both inside and outside the classroom through:

  • Reading books about leadership
  • Having discussions about current events that may be impacting the world or even a piece of your own world
  • Watching TED talks, reading biographies and viewing documentaries
  • Creating your own story on how you want to make an impact

Whether it is formally or informally, lifelong learning suggests that we all continue to be shaped by those who are around us and perhaps the most influential is learning from our personal experiences by making meaning out of them.

Consider your paradigms and what experiences have influenced the way that you perceive our world. Take courses outside of your program and industry to experience new processes that can then be used and applied within your own field.

Whether you are in school or have just graduated, electives, week-long intensive courses and workshops can allow you to do so. Approaching situations with an interdisciplinary point of view will not only enrich your contributions, but also your own perspective. It’s up to you as to which experiences and situations you’ll choose to engage in.

A teaching moment that I look forward to each semester is at the end of the course when my students are asked to reflect on their experience and say, “I used to think that only people who were in high-level positions were leaders, but now I know that anyone can be a leader.”

It is in this moment that I am reminded of the power of experiences and hope that they carry this with them throughout their personal lives and professional careers.

What steps are you taking to learn how to become a leader?

Photo credit: Victor1558

About the author

Dr. Rumeet Billan is a social entrepreneur and an educator. She is the President of Jobs in Education, a Partner at Viewpoint Leadership and Academy, and completed her PhD at the University of Toronto. She teaches, writes and speaks on social entrepreneurship, leadership and emotional resiliency. Her focus is on research and the development of global competence and emotional intelligence. At the age of 25 and again at age 28, Rumeet received the honour of being named one of Canada’s Most Powerful Women. She has been featured in Forbes.com and continues to integrate her business and research with her passion for creating change through education. To learn more, visit www.rumeetbillan.com