Pondering the pedagogy of leadership

For Kim Campbell, learning to lead is not only possible—it’s essential to becoming a citizen of an ever-changing world.


(Edmonton) For Kim Campbell, the title of her public lecture Thursday—“Can Leadership Be Taught?”—is clearly a rhetorical question. But in light of the University of Alberta’s new Peter Lougheed Leadership College, it’s one she believes needs to be answered unequivocally.

“Of course it can be, and it must be,” says the former prime minister and the college’s recently appointed founding principal. “Leadership, and what it means to follow, are undergoing constant change and revision, and the most talented leaders need to be aware of new ideas and learn new skills.

“I'm going to look at the way leaders are formed, and what I think is important for people to learn today, given that the fact that leadership has changed.”

The Peter Lougheed Leadership College, soon breaking ground on Saskatchewan Drive on the U of A’s North Campus, is one of two elements of the Peter Lougheed Leadership Initiative, a collaboration with The Banff Centre aimed at creating one of the world's pre-eminent leadership development programs. As founding principal of the college, Campbell will foster relationships with funders, faculty, alumni and other organizations to help build and enhance programming.

Campbell says the idea of leadership has evolved by leaps and bounds, even in the three decades since former Alberta premier Peter Lougheed was at the provincial helm. And although his impressive arsenal of skills is as relevant today as it ever was, she adds, the challenges have increased dramatically as organizations and societies become more complex and notions of top-down hierarchy give way to more collaborative—and less elitist—approaches to leadership.

Indeed, leadership training is something that can help anyone, she says.

“You never know when you’ll be called on to lead. And teaching leadership isn't just to help us be better leaders ourselves; it's to help us judge those who ask us to support them.

“It's about having a more knowledgeable and nuanced understanding of what leadership really means in our society and what we want it to be. We can now also take advantage of the growing body of knowledge in the academy about how we think and make decisions to help us navigate the shoals of leadership more intelligently. It's an essential part of our tool kit as citizens."

Campbell’s free public lecture, presented by the Peter Lougheed Leadership College, takes place Oct. 9 at 4:30 p.m. in room 150 of the Telus Centre.

Updated: Watch Kim Campbell's lecture