Introducing: The Principal’s Global Leadership Award (PGLA)

We’ve got Adelah Bilal here again today with details about another of the King’s Experience awards….

“Everyone has the potential to be a leader”

“There’s a leader inside us all”

“You can lead too!”

I’m sure you’ve heard this all your life, but is it really true – can anyone really be a leader, and if so, how does this happen?

The Principal’s Global Leadership Award (PGLA) is a leadership programme that takes participants (2nd year undergraduates and postgraduate taught students) on a journey of leadership discovery. 40 students in total participate in interactive seminars discussing theories of leadership, effective leaders and leadership challenges.

So, does everyone really have the potential to be a leader?
Professor Funmi Olonisakin (Vice President & Vice Principal, International and Head of the African Leadership Centre) led a session about effective leadership during the PGLA residential seminars earlier this year. One of the themes of her session was about how people become leaders. Understanding a little more about this process and the qualities of a leader might help to inspire the leader within – and you’ll also get an insight into what actually goes on during a PGLA seminar.

When theorising about what makes a good leader, many scholars have promoted the idea that it’s all about personality. I’m sure you’ve heard it before: “A good leader is charismatic, a great communicator, an efficient decision maker…”  In other words, psychological factors play a big role in determining who is a leader. It might even seem that our personality traits are more important than sociological developments that occur around us.

However, Professor Funmi proposed the idea to the PGLA participants that changing situations have a greater effect on leadership than personality.

Here’s an example that will help to demonstrate this theory:

Take Sam and John – two young people who are part of the same friendship group. Sam is popular, well-dressed and a trend-setter, whom all his friends gravitate towards. What Sam says goes – he is the natural leader of the group. John, on the other hand, is introverted and “un-cool”. However, he happens to be technically savvy.

One day Sam hosts a party, everyone goes to the party because they want to be around Sam and they listen and do as he says. John tags along because he wants to be included in the fun. Everyone is dancing around Sam, chanting the lyrics to the cool songs, whilst John watches alone from the corner. Suddenly, the music cuts out and everyone becomes irate. The party is no longer fun. Everyone looks to Sam, the Leader, to resolve the issue. He tries to fix the sound system, but nothing happens. Sam’s friends start to lose confidence in him and they start to leave the party.

John gets up confidently and walks over to the sound system. He plays with a few cords, presses a couple of buttons and suddenly the music booms through the speakers and the party’s back on!

Within a couple of seconds, the dynamic of the friendship group has drastically changed. Sam is no longer important to the group. John’s technical savvy means that he is needed. No one wants to see him leave the party- just in case they need his assistance again. They want to learn about John and how he developed his skill. They gravitate to him because they want to be like him now! Without intending to, John has emerged as the leader of the group.

So, what does this story tell us?

As situations change the opportunity of leadership changes.

This can occur at a particular moment in time by responding to something that everybody collectively wants. Changing situations can greatly change dynamics in a group and create opportunities for emerging leaders. This could be on a small scale like Sam’s party for his friends, or on a bigger scale, like the Arab Spring. If the music system hadn’t failed, John would have never emerged as the leader of the group, because he wasn’t doing anything that the group collectively needed.

This idea works against the psychological theories that suggest that you are born with certain traits that make you a leader.

Personality does play an important part in leadership, but perhaps only in as much as it allows you to continue to lead despite changes.

This makes us think more closely about methods of leadership. How do people lead effectively?

Once someone has emerged as a leader due to a situation change, they then need to effectively carry out that change to the constant satisfaction of their followers. This suggests that nobody is permanently leading or following. Roles within groups change all the time. What is important is the mutuality between leaders and followers who are exchanging influence and interacting in pursuit of a common goal. Simply speaking, we’re all in this together because we have a common problem to solve.

Effective leadership is about building a community that can affect change- the PGLA is about developing future leaders who can do this on a global scale.


Apply now!