[April 11, 2014] Over the past few days, within the blogosphere, there has been talk about the “intelligence equals education” debate. The debate centers on whether a college degree is a requirement for “higher [political] office,” like President of the United States. The implication we can get from this debate is that leadership probably requires a college degree.
Of course, this argument that leadership depends on a formal education is both overly simplistic and wrong. I don’t think Alexander the Great graduated from any university; formal schools of higher learning being a relatively recent human invention. From an earlier discussion (see link), we know however that there is a relationship between leadership and intelligence.
The leader-intelligence relationship is clear; to be a leader requires a certain among of knowledge of and applied know-how about those who they lead. Formal education, especially as we know it today, acts more as a sorting process whereby those with persistence, money, and some cognitive abilities can obtain a degree.
One Governor in today’s news is without a college degree and is considered a possible contender as a Presidential candidate. This is at the heart of the blogosphere debate – should he be required to have a college degree if he is serious about running for President. The Governor plans to complete his degree soon. By lacking a college degree, is he showing a lack of intelligence? Obviously, the answer is “no.”
Results count and experience with good judgment matters when leadership is needed. A college degree can be helpful because it shows a certain level of persistence, but it doesn’t make a leader.
There are even a few of us that think too much formal education can be harmful to leaders. The U.S. military, for example, despite highly encouraging and requiring certain levels of advanced education, discourage (informally of course) the doctoral level of education because it is not tied to great leadership.
The source of the debate on whether a college degree should be required to run for and occupy a high political office should be about formal credentials and not about leadership ability. Interestingly however, high political office is all about effective leadership, relevant experience, and proper judgment.
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