Born to Lead?

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Many business leaders get their first taste of leadership during their school days, according to a new survey.

The Institute of Leadership and Management (ILM) study of 500 UK business owners revealed that many were marked out as future leaders from an early age with 44% having been school prefects, 9% head boys or girls and 22% captains of a school sports team.

The sports field was shown to be a valuable learning ground for today's leaders with 69% having competed as part of a school team.

The survey also suggests that extra-curricular activities played a role in the development of future leaders. One third of male leaders (34%) were once members of the Boy Scouts while 42% of their female counterparts were Girl Guides. Sixteen per cent were once members of a choir and one in ten played in an orchestra.

Kim Parish, chief executive of ILM said: “This study shows that many young people learn about leadership at a very early age. Activities often seen as childhood hobbies - such as being a member of the Scouts or Guides, or playing on a school team - actually furnish young people with skills such as team ethos, ambition, goal setting and many of the other qualities that we associate with good leadership.”

Thirty per cent of business leaders felt that holding a position of responsibility at school was the best indicator of a good future leader. And despite the social bias towards higher education, today's business leaders believe that academic qualifications aren't a prerequisite for success. One third said that academic performance at school was the most overrated indicator of a good leader and only one third left education with a university degree.

In fact, a significant proportion of today's leaders must owe their current role to experiences outside the classroom, as 12% left school under the age of 16 and 7% had no qualifications at all when they left full time education.

Kim Parish added: “This study shows that successful leaders draw on expertise and experience from all areas of their lives - from the exam hall to the cricket pitch. The leadership lessons learned in childhood can help sow the first seeds of leadership ambition.”

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