DDI study: MBA degree doesn’t guarantee leadership

A study by Development Dimensions International (DDI), a global leadership development consultancy, has confirmed what most of us knew already: An MBA degree does create good managers, but not necessarily great leaders. The study also concluded that engineers, executives with a technical background, law and natural science graduates fare worst as leaders.

Picture: kasto / fotolia

The extensive nine-year research project involved 15,000 leaders across 300 companies in 18 countries. The study was conducted amongst under-graduatedegree holders and MBA degree holders and evaluated eight essential leadership skills: financial acumen, business savvy, compelling communication, driving execution, driving for results, entrepreneurship, influence and inspiring excellence.

The results showed that MBA degree holders came out top in regards to their managing skills which involve financial acumen, business savvy and strategic decision making. However, other skill sets like coaching, results orientation andvisionary leadership skills were not necessarily linked to an MBA. Indeed those who didn’t have a management degree even outperformed MBAs.

Amongst other degree holders, engineers, executives with a technical background, law and natural science graduates came out as the worst leaders, whereas humanities graduates were found to be quite good in several leadership qualities, similar to MBA graduates.

Considering the high cost of an MBA, business schools might have to think about how to develop those essential leadership assets in their candidates. “The research demonstrates that MBA students need more well-rounded background and experiences to learn the important interaction and inspirational skills they will need to truly excel as leaders,” said Evan Sinar, DDI’s Chief Scientist and Director.“ These skills are developable with sustained focus, but can’t be learned in an academic classroom. Skills practice with employees, expert coaching/mentoring and abundant on-the-job application opportunities are critical to make these challenging skills stick.” 

Find full report here:
Do MBA Graduates Make the Best Leaders?