Tuesday, November 10, 2009

MBA and Leadership: Do we need a Paradigm shift

Peter F. Drucker famously said “Management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.

I was recently reading a book by Lee Iacocca called “Where Have All the Leaders Gone”. Iacocca's masterpiece approaches the issue of lack of leadership around the world. He identifies the lack of leadership skills in the current world and acknowledges that there is growing awareness of a need for greater focus on it. He also admits that the modern management talent has come from the numerous MBA schools around the globe. However, most of the MBA programmes have been snail-paced to address this leadership shortage and are clueless on how to move forward.
After reading the book and contemplating my MBA experience, I thought I would share some thoughts on Leadership and the paradigm shift required in MBA programmes.

Currently, most global corporations are severely over-administered and under-led. This issue exists in both established economies of the West and emerging economies of the East. Though emphasis is placed on leadership development in West, this initiative in severely lacking in the East. With micromanagement style, Eastern Leaders find it difficult to delegate tasks effectively paying a price on productivity and core leadership utility.
In this current environment, there is no surprise that media around the world have raised the important issue of the role of business schools in the creation of leaders in the 21st century knowledge economy. The anguishing fact is that despite this prevalent recognition of the need for leaders, MBA programmes are not adapting fast enough to fill this need. The key challenge faced by these MBA programmes is to evaluate whether Leadership is an inbuilt personal quality or is it something that can be inculcated in individuals through teaching. However, academics around the world are not on the right direction, they are still discussing the nature of leadership rather than its development. We recognize Cambridge & Oxford to be the academic pinnacles of the Europe, however funnily they list out all of the traditional MBA functional disciplines except leadership on their course curriculum website. With websites being the primary source of information, this fact strongly indicates that leadership education is not widespread among world’s leading B-schools and is not recognized as important as conventional business and management disciplines.
I was recently reading an article about how the Army and the Navy develop their leaders. It’s interesting because in my opinion, they develop much stronger and effective leaders than do business schools. Though Army & Navy are was different from business organizations in operations and management, credit needs to be given to them for their action centric approach to develop the future leaders.
Their action centric approach is a coalescent approach to management and leadership that involves three foundational management strategies – accomplishing the duty, managing the team and developing the individual. This approach strongly emphasizes on applying these principles throughout the training and potential leaders are assessed on their ability to apply the theoretical knowledge in practical scenarios. This approach is distinct from the MBA legacy of students being taught irrelevant business & management subjects which are not applicable in this modern world.
In the action centric approach, students are not taught about leadership, they are taught for it.

Traditionally, business schools have been good at developing managers. They are focused on developing traditional functional competences (accountancy, corporate strategy, marketing, operations management) that are required to manage large organizations. However, the students are not equipped with knowledge and capability to cope up and initiate CHANGE. Thus, in order for B schools to create not only managers but also leaders, management education processes will need to change.

This new MBA avatar (I had to use this Avatar word – the movie is coming soon) will involve:
1. Less Stress on conventional management subjects.
2. An integrated and foundational approach to management.
3. Emphasizing on personal effectiveness.
4. Moving Emphasis from knowledge acquisition and testing to capability development and demonstration.

Not only the MBA curriculum will need to change but also the entire process of learning and evaluation will need to go through a major overhaul.
I quote one of my favorite Bible citations which is very relevant to this discussion to end this article
“If the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch”


spiritscalper said...

Great writing man! :) In my opinion, I believe that leadership skills are either in-born or grown through experience, which explains this gaping lack of leadership courses in MBA courses worldwide... kthxbye!

Unknown said...

Very good thought Amit.
Business world can learn a lot from the military. discipline, being lean, strategy. Indian army has some great leaders and they have excelled in corporate world. Ranbaxy, Air Deccan, DLF ... there are so many examples
But reading ur article, wanna go for a mba but its too late now :-(

Unknown said...

I can relate to this article.
In my company in California, we r facing major leadership crisis as no one is good enough for the task
Ultimately the company is losing direction .
there is a paradigm shift in the world

Anonymous said...

Okie... Leadership can either be learned or one might be born with it. As far as the military style of leadership is concerned, I would only leave u with the Chetwode motto- this is what the gentlemen cadets at the IMA take while they pass out:

“The safety, honour and welfare of your country come first, always and every time. The honour, welfare and comfort of the men you command come next. Your own ease, comfort and safety come last, always and every time.”

A similar post of mine: http://wp.me/pAEMz-O

instant_blogger said...

Very well said Ashwin
The perception about Leadership is changing drastically these days. People are open to the notion of "learning" leadership which didnt exist earlier. so this is a fantastic opportunity to sell leadership as a course in a similar way as world sold english courses