Why MBAs can be an expensive mistake

MBA qualifications are expensive, and at best have a neutral impact on
executive career development. Under certain circumstances an MBA can be a
positive hindrance to success. The following have been found to be some of the
shortcomings of MBA programmes:

1 Too theoretical

In current dynamic market conditions, global organisations are increasingly
assessing potential business leaders by looking for evidence of the ability to
promote corporate agility. They want people who can re-shape businesses to take
immediate advantage of market opportunities. The theoretical framework and
functional orientation of most formal business qualifications make them
ill-suited for this purpose.

2 Do not address leadership shortcomings

Leadership success depends on execution, not technical knowledge. In the US,
for example, Mintzberg and Lampel found that 40 per cent of CEOs, who were
unsuccessful due to poor people skills and faulty policy decisions, had MBAs
degrees. Successful systems designed to identify and nurture future leaders
would identify such de-railing traits at an early stage, before they became
crucial elements of a leader’s downfall and had a detrimental effect on the

3 Do not assess people’s achievements or potential

The traditional techniques taught in largely commoditised MBA programmes say
nothing of what a potential leader has already achieved, or more importantly,
what they are capable of achieving. Successful leaders have to be able to cope
with future challenges. They need to survive and thrive, even in the midst of

4 Do not replicate real life scenarios

You cannot replicate management in the classroom. MBAs may give students the
confidence to make decisions, but not the competence to deal with the messy
reality in which decisions are executed. Leaders need to know how to transform
vision into action, and action into results, while dealing with day-to-day

5 Not enough emphasis given to behaviourally-based assessment

Personal attitudes and behaviours affect individuals’ performance and job
satisfaction. It is essential to review the relationship between taking
personal responsibility, organisational success and being a leader.

6 Preparing and empowering other employees

MBAs often place too little emphasis on imparting knowledge on a leader’s
responsibility for coaching for success and improvement among managers and
staff. They need to know how to help people gain confidence and experience in
meeting challenges and to mobilise them to take actions that lead to desired

7 Conflict resolution

It is important for leaders to recognise signs that conflict exists, to
determine their own level of involvement and service as a catalyst to encourage
those involved in the conflict to achieve resolution.

8 Retaining talent

With employee turnover crucial in some industries, the competition for
talented individuals in certain areas is greater than it has been for many
years. MBA courses rarely teach people to create and foster an environment
where people and performance thrive, or to create retention strategies.

9 Facilitating change

Few MBA programmes examine how an organisation handles change. This depends
on how leaders help people move from the disorientation stage to integration
and acceptance. Leaders need to know how to make change a positive experience
for others by focusing people on a shared vision, building business
partnerships, championing ongoing improvement and creating an environment in
which learning is encouraged.

10 Too expensive

An MBA is an extremely expensive proposition. It takes the student off their
career path for up to two years and can cost up to £150,000 if forgone salary
is taken into account. That’s a high price to pay for academic cachet and
admittedly excellent networking opportunities. But increasingly it carries the
risk of the holder being tainted as an out-of-date theoretician.


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