Over the last few decades, the MBA program in particular has been heralded as giving us highly trained (or trainable) industry leaders. If you examine the web locations for most EMBA or MBA web locations, one or the whole focus of the different marketing materials suggest that these programs, indeed, are the best at producing robust corporate leaders. As the MBA diploma has proliferated over the last few decades, it’s defendable that we as an industry have been altogether successful at producing high quality managers for a great long while.
Even so, if you further examine the curricula and pedagogy across MBA programs, they are remarkably similar; and in many ways, pretty much identical (baring the differences among & between the different faculty members teaching at the different campuses). Programmatically, the way each program is shaped is slightly variable, but largely describable in about a half to a dozen different permutations.
The broad assumption, because of the overlap and redundancy, and frankly imitation and replication of leadership training and MBA curricular design across large swaths of our industry suggests that the way we are doing it IS the way to train leaders for a broad number of industries. However, might this not be a case where our collective success over time, ultimately, has led us dangerously close to failure?
Frankly, leadership training (and perhaps the MBA as a whole) has become stale. We have become complacent. We haven’t demanded more innovation from our MBA programs all the while we claim we demand it from our students. It is arguable that the leadership that our “top” programs have sent into the word – the very same programs that brought us the heads of Enron, AIG, Lehman Brothers, brought us Credit Default Swaps and the Mortgage melt down – is proof positive of this claim – that the way we teach leadership and train leaders is fundamentally broken.
I submit the existing status quo – the way MBA programs train leaders – as a barrier to improving management across the board. Might there be a different way to produce high quality leaders? Through a dialog about this barrier, I think we can come to a definable pathway forward. I don’t have a solution, but I welcome the discussion as to which might be the best way forward; or have we gone too far down the “leadership” pathway to beat a retreat to where we last truly understood high quality management?