Tag Archives: leadership

MBA = Leadership?

I often laugh at the claims of business schools to turn you into a leader during your 2 years in school. How exactly do they expect to pull that one off?

I guess I don’t quite understand the thought that anyone can “become” a leader in a school environment. What does it really mean to become a leader anyway? At exactly what point in his life did Abraham Lincoln become a leader? Of course the real goal is build your leadership skills as your grow personally and professionally, but can a business school help accomplish that?

In some small ways, I admit that it’s part of any person’s natural development, but the great leaders of the past and present didn’t study discounted cash flow models to hone their leadership skills. They led. I can read every John C. Maxwell book in print, and be mentored by the greatest leaders in the world, but there is no substitute for the real thing.

As an Air Force officer, I’ve commanded groups as large as 70 people, and I’ll promise you that no amount of preparation can get you ready for the first time that 70 people are standing doe-eyed waiting for your first order. It’s terrifying…

And so I learned… One day at a time, I learned about me, about each of them, and about what works and doesn’t. No school (and I had already been to a few) can teach the subtleties of charismatic leadership. The ONLY way to become a better leader is to lead, fail, assess, learn, and lead again. Rinse and repeat. This can be accomplished at work, at church, a volunteer organization, your daughter’s PTA, etc. If it involves influencing others toward a common goal, then it can contribute to your self-awareness as long as you take the time to assess your performance.

Don’t misunderstand my disdain for leadership learning: several books on leadership have single-handedly changed my life. But these books are only useful with a bevy of leadership failures to draw upon.

Business school will present its fair share of challenges, and opportunities to lead small groups, projects, etc. I wholeheartedly accept that every such challenge will push you one more step down the path, but I reject the propaganda that indicates you’ll arrive a timid boy working the fry-stand at McDonalds, and leave as a hairy-chested man ready to take a post as a CEO.

With that metaphor, I bid you adieu.