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MBA degree doesn't guarantee leadership

Staff writer |
An extensive nine year study on 15,000 leaders across 300 companies spread across 18 countries conducted by Development Dimensions International (DDI) confirmed that there is no relation between a MBA degree and leadership.

And one of the most interesting discovery of this study is that engineers, techies, law and natural science graduates are the worst leaders among all.

Evan Sinar, DDI’s Chief Scientist and Director, Center for Analytics and Behavioral Research said in the report, “MBA degrees did indeed make better managers. Unfortunately, the same couldn’t be said for their impact on stronger leadership.”

The research conducted by DDI compared professional performances of under-graduate degree holders and MBA degree holders against the backdrop of 8 essential skills of a leader: financial acumen, business savvy, compelling communication, driving execution, driving for results, entrepreneurship, influence and inspiring excellence.

Using specialized parameters like Emotional Intelligence, Money Skills, Risk taking behavior and more, the study attempted to dig out the secrets of a true leader; and calculated and compared them with MBA and non-MBA degree holders.

Although they did find that MBA degree holders are better managers compared to other degree holders, they lacked several essential skills and acumen which makes a true leader.

If we observe skills such as financial acumen, business savvy and strategic decision making, then MBA degree holders performed quite well. A manager should definitely have these qualities in order to manage a team and a business.

However, when researchers zeroed on properties such as coaching, results orientation and visionary leadership skills, then MBA degree holders failed miserably against those who didn’t had management degree.

Dr. Sinar said, “While management skills are consistently higher for MBA graduates, we were surprised to find there are several skills that are lower,” adding, “These are significant shortcomings when you consider the cost of the investment,”

A typical senior leader in contemporary corporate world would be a MBA degree holder, and they will be scoring quite high in atleast five out of eight leadership properties.

However, a typical engineer fared the worst among all degree holders – the report found them at the bottom of the leadership pyramid, with least matching properties of a true leader. IT and Law graduates were found to be average, or below average.

Humanities graduates were found to be quite good in several leadership qualities, almost same as MBA graduate.

The report said, “ Engineering, law, IT, and natural sciences graduates are particularly likely to fall behind their peers from other degree backgrounds in leadership skills.”

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