"Why should I bother with math? I want to be a singer."
"Just because you want to be a singer, doesn't mean you can be a singer. There are another ten million just like you who want to be the next American Idol."
"You're old and disillusioned, Dad. If I try hard enough and believe, it's all going to happen."
This is where I explain to my daughter that I am still hoping to be a linebacker for my beloved Chicago Bears. I exercise regularly, can bench press a respectable amount of weight, and am waiting for my tryout with the team. Problems: no matter how hard I strive, I am becoming slower with each passing year, and I am probably 60 pounds too light for the position. My daughter says that I waited too long before attempting to fulfill my lifelong ambition, whereupon I respond that even in my youth, no matter how hard I might have tried, I would never have been big, strong or fast enough to play professional football. In short, I don't have the right genetic material to make this dream come true.
But what about playing the violin? Again, I am genetically deficient: inadequate small motor dexterity and an inability to carry a tune. Sure, if I wanted to go to the trouble, in another five years I might be able to provide a recital, including such favorites as "Happy Birthday" and "Frère Jacques", but my musical career would not extend beyond this unhappy cacophonous occasion.
But now back to the subject of this blog entry: Can "leadership" be learned, and if so, why is it not being taught at universities throughout the world?
My belief? Although I think "leadership" should be studied and can perhaps be improved, this does not mean that it can be practiced on a "virtuoso level" by almost anyone. What are its components? Certainly, charisma, which cannot be taught, is one of them. Add to the list, a willingness to accept risk - again something for which we are not all wired or suited. Abundant confidence and an ability to make snap decisions? Absolutely, but once again, owing to genetic and environmental factors, this is not present in all of us.
What about intelligence? I'm sure it's helpful for any prospective leader, but in and of itself does not make for leaders. Perhaps someone out there can tell me the average IQ of an NFL quarterback - I am certain it is not inordinately high. Also, although I was never impressed with the raw intelligence of Ronald Reagan, he was certainly a leader.
Do we wish to be led by leaders? Leadership on the battle and playing fields is critical to winning, but can we subsist without leadership, for example, in the White House? Notwithstanding Axelrod's success at portraying him otherwise, Obama is not a leader: he is extremely intelligent, but by all accounts is slow to make decisions and is reluctant to rule by fiat. Some have called Obama a Wilsonian president, but is there still room in the Oval Office for such a person, who perhaps represents the antithesis of leadership, in an unforgiving twenty first century which brooks no delay?
My daughter? Let's see if she ultimately decides to invest the time in voice lessons. Maybe someday she will take satisfaction from whatever level of proficiency she attains. And just maybe she will prove her father wrong and become a star of stage and screen. Meanwhile, however, I am still hoping she will take her math seriously, and I have composed a ditty on her behalf:
There once was a girl named Barr,
Who bought herself a guitar.
She thought she could play,
And sang all day,
But no one put money in the jar.