“You have an extraordinary opportunity, take full advantage of this gift.” That was how my professor closed my very first MBA class. I am provisionally enrolled in the prestigious Helzberg MBA program at Rockhurst University. Provisional pending a moderate score on a graduate level entrance exam. To say I’m excited is a bit of an understatement.*
*I’ve noted more than once before on this blog that higher education is kind of a big scam, especially for business majors. This holds true. I’m fortunate that my graduate program including all fees will amount to just a hair more than my undergraduate program. Still you must consider that the cost is for about 1/4 of the hours for the same price as undergrad. Law school or Med schools cost much more. I’m thankful that business principles apply in my favor in this situation. There is a demand for MBA programs, so there are more developed and the market has to adjust prices to attract students. Diversification is a great strategy in this type of market, if there was something to diversify. Rockhurst prides itself on being the most accredited and most Jesuit program while an institution such as Baker prides itself on flexibility and ease of entry. Still, at the end of the day, there will be far too many MBA graduates than the market needs and while it will help in advancing the career, still gotta put in the sweat like everyone else. Or get lucky.
So my first class is BUS6000: Managerial Communications which serves a dual purpose. 1) To introduce students to how the Helzberg MBA is structured and what to generally expect and 2) To clean up any sort of remaining communication issues in business writing and presenting. We are to write 4 short papers on topics from the 6 learning goals: Leadership, Ethical and Corporate Social Responsibility, Business Skills and Knowledge, International/Global Perspectives, Information Analysis and Education, and Communication. Since these papers are short, I thought I’d share what I wrote and update as the program goes along.
:: Leadership ::
A tenant of the Alpha Kappa Psi business fraternity is the development of principled business leaders. This seems to be a common theme regarding leadership among the business classes or organizations that I have attended. Such fanaticism regarding developing everyone into strong business leaders instills the idea that if you are not going to be a leader, you are not successful. This unrealistic expectation graduates thousands of students every year who expect to be business leaders but find out rather quickly that everyone cannot be a leader and especially not right away. Realistic leadership, I find, derives from a combination of experience, a solid knowledge base, and good followership.
Experience is a pretty scary term for business students as it presents the first major barrier in starting one’s career. Without strong working experience, there is little chance of promotion or raises or the opportunity to pursue certain jobs. Simply put, most everyone needs to put in the time necessary in his particular area, mainly because what is learned in the classroom does not always translate exactly into the future job. In terms of leadership, experience is necessary because co-workers need to have a good sense of an individual’s skills and how they work before they will be comfortable following them.
A solid knowledge base refers not only to the information that a potential leader has in his head, but also to the information regarding the job. This can cover the actual specifics of the position, general industry knowledge, and especially the catalog of resources and skills available from each team member. The latter part is especially helpful in defining roles and exploiting the personal “core competencies” of each team member which helps the group as a whole be more efficient and more focused. While charisma and building relationships with people are strong factors in leadership, without a strong knowledge base, that particular individual has a much lower ability to realize successful leadership.
Good followership is not simply being able to take orders and do your job effectively. It also means supporting the leader in what ways is necessary. While this may seem to be straightforward, the implications are a bit more complex. Being a good follower does not mean being submissive to a leader but rather supporting ideas or decisions when needed and by opposing ideas when it is not the best for the group. In an ideal group, all members are working hard to support the group and all have applicable leadership skills without striving for control or domination. Rather any particular person in that group practicing good followership could be the leader at any given point, a fact that I feel needs to be emphasized more in teaching leadership.
Leadership is not a universal skill and should not be expected from every student that decides to go into business. I believe that confidence, charisma, and talent go a long way in starting a career in business and growing strong leaders. I do not fault organizations in trying to instill this hopeful idea. However, unless the student can combine experience, a strong knowledge base, and good followership, they cannot realistically expect to become great leaders.
Note that this is following the guidelines established for the paper which included:
5 paragraphs, 1 opening, 3 body, 1 conclusion
“copy and paste” thesis in opening and closing paragraphs
Use exact phrasing from thesis for beginning of each body paragraph (for “imprinting”)
Focus on making the document readable and straightforward
For the record, I really didn’t like this paper at all but given the restrictions (1 page, single spaced) there was not a lot of room to play around with it. I am a bit stronger with a bit of persuasion in my writing. It is an art I think, writing, but I won’t delve too deeply into it in this post, just to say, I am comfortable when I can use a lot of “colors” when I have the time and space to make you see what I want you to see. Business writing isn’t like that, which is why this class may be a bit more refreshing. Gives me an opportunity to practice writing things straight up for a change. We’ll see.