An MBA is not enough

Apr 16 2007 by Brian Amble Print This Article

Studying for an MBA may give high-flyers the sort of strong general education they need as launch pad for their careers, but it is far from being an instant ticket into a top executive job.

In fact, only one in five executives believe that an MBA prepares people to deal with the challenges that managers have to face in their working lives according to research by executive search firm Egon Zehnder International.

The in-depth survey of 133 top executives at global firms in the US, UK, France and Germany found that less than a quarter (24 per cent) of US executives felt that an M.B.A. provided excellent and adequate preparation for a leadership position.

The same was true for fewer than a third (29 per cent) of British executives, while around half (54 per cent) of French executives and 45 per cent of the German executives agreed.

"The panel's input reveals executives around the globe view an MBA as a good launch pad, but really no more than that," said George Davis, Co-Managing Partner North America of Egon Zehnder International.

Underlining this, three-quarters of the executives interviewed agreed with the statement that "if all you know about is business, then you know nothing about business either."

When asked to point to activities best suited to avoiding tunnel vision in business, "talking to interesting people," "my family life," and "reading" were among the top methods.

But if an MBA is no longer seen as a critical step on the career path, opinions differed as to other characteristics that are desirable or essential in senior executives.

For the British and Americans interviewed, ethical behaviour topped the list of key attributes. And while French and German respondents acknowledges that this is highly important, all the French respondents and almost all their German colleagues said that personal charisma was the single most important characteristic for an executive to possess.

However there was more agreement between American and French executives when it came to the question of where to obtain the best executive education. Almost three-quarters of Americans and seven out of 10 French executives said that US universities and colleges were the best in the world.

While the same sentiment was shared by half of Germans, only four out of 10 Britons felt that the US was the ideal place to educate college-aged students.

For George Davis, the survey offers one loud message to managers who make hiring decisions. "Don't let an MBA determine your hiring selection".