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Why M.B.A. Programs Don’t Create Leaders

The very nature of business school is at odds with the idea of creating tomorrow’s leaders, says Drew Hansen. M.B.A. students often lack the big picture as well as people skills. 

What’s the Latest Development?

Over the last generation, business schools have begun to teach management as a science rather than a profession, says Drew Hansen, who couldn’t bring himself to complete his Harvard Business School application. Today, business classrooms emphasize academic rigor as a balance to everyday usefulness and many have changed their statement of purpose: rather than promise career advancement and higher salaries, they promise to turn students into leaders.

What’s the Big Idea?

Hansen identifies three major reasons why M.B.A. programs cannot successfully create leaders: (1) Business leaders must understand people; business graduates only understand numbers. Soft skills like personal management get lost among all the technical emphasis and many younger students are not ready to learn about them. (2) M.B.A.s don’t learn to see the big picture. “Only 36 percent of the top M.B.A. programs require General Management in its core.” (3) Business curricula focus too much on strategy and not enough on execution.  


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