The Biggest Lie of the MBA

greig1The MBA was originally a degree in “Business Administration.”  It promised a specific course of study.

But just like the emperor with no clothes, many MBA programs put “leadership” in their marketing, but it’s invisible without the corresponding development of new skills.  There is a way to addresses this gap, and I’ll get to that below.

Calling themselves Schools of Management, however, and promising practical leadership experience misses the fundamental need to develop leadership through practice.  Knowledge is not enough – leadership requires practicing and building embodied skills in the domain of skilled human interaction.  The essence of Generative Leadership is that it is a set of skills that can be seen, practiced and mastered.

Knowledge is not enough – leadership requires practicing and building embodied skills in the domain of skilled human interaction.

Jeffrey Pfeffer, professor in the Stanford School of Business reviewed dozens of studies of the results of business school education, and concluded “There is little evidence that mastery of the knowledge acquired in business schools enhances people’s careers, or that even attaining the MBA credential itself has much effect on graduates’ salaries or career attainment. [i]”  This drives home our repeated assertion about the importance of keeping your eyes on what you really care about.

The biggest lie of the MBA is that business and organizational studies develop the abilities to be an effective manager, executive, leader, or entrepreneur.

If want to develop actual leadership impact and management skill then the MBA is not likely to satisfy your concerns.

Knowing and focusing on what you care about – on what’s important to you – must precede your decision to embark on your next learning endeavor.  What do you really want from your investment in leadership and management development? Pfeffer continues that “A large body of evidence suggests that the curriculum taught in business schools has only a small relationship to what is important for success in business. [i]

We have found that what’s important for leadership and management success is to master the skills of generating commitment and coordination through effective conversations and that these skills are the key to results that matter.

What’s important for success is to master the skills of generating commitment through effective conversations that lead to the effective coordination of action

Pfeffer concludes that in many MBA’s “there was too little attention given to developing leadership and interpersonal skills, and too little emphasis on communication skills.[i]

Warren Bennis and James O’Toole, professors in the University of Southern California business school, wrote in the HBR article How Business Schools Lost Their Way: “Business schools are on the wrong track…business school faculties simply must rediscover the practice of business.[ii]

Henry Mintzberg, Professor of Management Studies at McGill University, and considered a leading expert on strategy, wrote a book called Managers Not MBAs.  In it, he says The trouble with ‘management’ education is that it is business education, and leaves a distorted impression of management… we need to build the craft and the art of managing into management education and thereby bring these back into the practice of managing… conventional MBA programs train the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences.[iii]

Conventional MBA programs train the wrong people in the wrong ways with the wrong consequences.
– Henry Mintzberg

Some business schools have responded with…

  • More courses on communication
  • Emphasis on team projects
  • A focus on “capstone projects”

You learn after B-School that the perfect answer or strategy means nothing if you can’t get people around you to buy in to it and help you achieve it.
– Eric Jackson, on Forbes.com

But that still has the development of skills of management as optimistic band-aids rather than core to the design of the program.   Some Executive MBA programs are an exception since the participants are already practicing managers and executives who demand applications  of the content in their participating companies.  These executives know the need for education and practice, but they are left to address the skills of coordination and conversation to themselves.

Education and Practice

SurgeonContrast traditional MBA education with the way we train physicians.  We fully recognize that for doctors to succeed, knowledge alone is not enough.  They need to develop skills and experience through practice.

An effective leader or manager is just as important to the health of an organization as a doctor is to physical health.  That’s why a Generative Leadership practice focuses so much on practice! And what are the right practices for leadership and teamwork, and how to engage in them.

The development of management and leadership skill, actual hands on skills that make a difference in the performance of teams, organizations, and companies has been the focus of the Institute for Generative Leadership (IGL) since 1993.  I believe leadership is a full-contact sport, where leaders touch people at a psychological, somatic, and emotional level in the creation of commitment.  I hope to see the discipline of Generative Leadership – where these skills are developed – in business schools some day, but for now it is available in the Generative Leadership Program offered by the Institute.

Leadership is a full-contact sport, where leaders touch people at both a psychological and emotional level in the creation of commitment.

Generative Leadership  – A Focus on Education and Practice.

The Generative  Leadership Program starts with a three-day workshop where together, we develop a new set of lenses through which you can see new possibilities and new choices for action in your world.  In a very literal sense, these are three and a half days to a new future – your future. We work with practice and prepare for practice, the only way to develop skill rather than just understanding concepts. You are given the practices to continue after the workshop in a path of learning and mastery.

In Generative Leadership, practice and application are part of the core design

The Generative Leadership Program  is designed to …

  • Elevate the measurable leadership impact of participants
  • Through explicit development and practice of management and leadership skills on the job

You then apply those skills to what you care about with whom you want to make a difference:

  • Teams
  • Organizations
  • Companies
  • Communities
  • Even families

The development of skill is done through practice…

  • Working with your real work and life commitments
  • Applying your learning to what you care about
  • Working with teams you lead, or where you are a member

You get Personal Coaching and it organizes participants into leadership and learning teams. The program allows participants to integrate new practices and skills into their skill sets, and focuses on topics such as:

  • Care and Commitment
  • Capacity Management
  • Getting Offers Accepted
  • Team Conversations
  • Breakdowns & Planning
  • Power & Politics
  • Organizational Change
  • Value Creation

Leaders who are already successful produce the greatest results from their learning in our programs

Testimonial Headshots

I invite you to explore and deeply commit to what you most care about.
This is not an MBA program.  It’s better.
Come learn with us!

 

Bob Dunham

 

Citations

[i] Jeffrey Pfeffer,
Professor Stanford Business School, and Christina Fong, PhD candidate, The End of Business Schools? Less Success Than Meets the Eye, Academy of Management Learning and Education, Volume 1, Number 1, September 2002.

[ii]Warren Bennis and James O’toole, How Business Schools Lost Their Way, Harvard Business Review, May 2005.

[iii] Henry Mintzberg, Professor ofManagement Studies, Managers Not MBA’s,
Henry Mintzberg, Barrett-Koehler, 2005.

Eric Jackson, The Ten Biggest Lies of B-School, Forbes.com article.

 

 

 

 

 

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