An MBA – Where’s the real value?

Did you know that less than 25%, or only 12 of the top 50 Best-Performing CEOs in the world hold an MBA! Surprised?

I came across this interesting statistic whilst re-reading the January/February edition of the Harvard Business Review. And the unique aspect of this article, differing from previous benchmarks I’ve read, is in that it evaluates a CEOs (of large companies) performance over the entire time they held their office.

To compile their results the authors collected data on close to 2,000 CEO’s worldwide, of which 55% in total had MBA degrees. On average, qualifying CEOs increased the wealth of their shareholders by $48.2 billion & were from all over the planet, therefore no one country or industry dominated this list.

So what makes you a Top 50 Best-Performing CEO? Execution, especially under adverse conditions, as highlighted by another interesting fact that “the average rank of the CEOs who took over companies that performed poorly in the two years before they entered the job was 96 places better than the average rank of those who took over firms with great prior performance”. The article also pointed out how “quite CEOs who delivered outstanding results year in and year out, away from the glare of the cover stories and business school case studies” had more success. Sound a lot like “good old hard-work ethic”!

A few months ago a successful friend of mine was sharing with me his thoughts as he was contemplating an MBA himself. I asked him what he expected to get in exchange for his 68.000€ investment, and he replied with the word “network”. He didn’t expect to learn any new earth shattering logic that was going to make his next venture any easier or more successful, but he did value the network of people and relationships you get access to through such programs. Now there’s an interesting perspective! How valuable is your network?

If over the course of your professional career you’ve already succeeded, than an MBA gives you clear insights into the science behind a lot of the gut instinct choices you’ve made over a short life-time. If your MBA is the continuation of your educational career than you might not recognize the true value until you get into the workplace to trial your new found theories & models. And if your MBA is intended to fill your gaps in knowledge or understanding, then you should still take great care to observe and absorb the successful patterns of those business leaders you admire.

In any regard, the art of execution is still the determining factor behind success, and that only comes with experience. Experience built in the “school of hard knocks” where you hopefully learn from your mistakes & failures, whilst taking great care to analyze the key ingredients of your “wins” so you can repeat these successful patterns. Whilst your MBA might increase your IQ (Intelligence Quotient) it won’t necessarily give you higher AQ (Adversity Quotient) unless you integrate all of the challenges you’ve overcome into your arsenal of new tools & habits. How are you going to react under pressure? It’s these moments of truth that will ultimately determine your success or failure.

Anyone who has coached a fair share of MBA grads on the practical nature of implementing the theory they’ve acquired, can attest to the fact that what you get out of an MBA depends on the perspective & background you go into it with.

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