In Canada, leadership training, or what passes for it, has long been fashionable in business and government. Routinely, employees, especially of the high-flyer variety, are encouraged to sign up for lectures, workshops, conferences, and “experiences” intended to improve their ability to manage others. Most of these have some value, but all are essentially remedial – equipping employees with workplace skills employers wished they had had as new hires.
As it happens, new hires themselves have lamented that their university education did not equip them with Corporate Canada’s desired skill-set. In 2015, the Canadian University Survey Consortium reported that up to half of the 18,000 graduating students polled believed their university education had not helped much in their developing skills such as communication, thinking creatively, planning and completing projects, dealing successfully with obstacles, time management, persistence with difficult tasks, self-confidence, and ability to lead a group to achieve an objective.
Universities have begun to address the deficiency through offering a variety of short-term and small scale “soft skills” learning opportunities for interested individuals, but these are not typically part of a coherent program of learning – and most are only tangentially related to leadership development.
The scale of the Canadian National Leadership Program dwarfs any other youth development program. It aims to have leadership training become an integral part of a university or college education in Canada, incorporated into the standard curriculum of an appreciable proportion of the country’s institutions of higher learning.
Nothing on such a scale has been imagined in Canada in 50 years. There are 98 Canadian universities and 130 Canadian community colleges on 900 campuses from coast to coast and in the north. As of 2016, they had a total of 1.7 million full-time undergraduates. Were just a fraction of these students enrolled in a powerful leadership development program such as the CNLP, the program would produce an adrenaline shot of thousands of exceptionally competent young men and women joining the workforce every year. Their cumulative impact would transform the nation. In ten years, Canada would be a different country.