By Jonathan Kirschner, Psy.D. • August 8, 2010

MBA Leadership Development Series

The ongoing debate over the state of our current MBA paradigm has been well established and the verdict seems apparent: the MBA must go beyond conceptualizing itself as a center for acquiring professional knowledge and technical skill-sets in order to infuse tomorrow’s manager with social responsibility, self-awareness, and a mastery of soft skills. As Richard Barker, in his recent HBR article explains, MBA programs must begin viewing themselves as “learning environments, where individuals develop attributes, rather than as teaching environments, where students are presented with a body of functional and technical content.”

For the past three months, AIIR Consulting has been trying to gauge the current landscape within B-school programs through interviewing MBA students, faculty, careers service staff members, and B-school deans. Our research showed that aside from a handful of schools with exemplary leadership development programing, current leadership development initiatives are primarily accomplished through:

  1. Courses where leadership is learned academically
  2. The office of career services - whereby leadership development is lumped together with professional development in the pursuit of acquiring or maintaining a job
  3. Guest speakers invited to lecture on leadership topics
  4. Mentorship programs developed with alumni

In general, we viewed these trends as steps in the right direction. However, if business leadership is to be defined as the ability to leverage self-awareness about strengths and weaknesses in order to manage, inspire, and move a group of people toward a collective mission- the status quo is inadequate.

Self-awareness cannot be garnered through course work. Dressing a student up to impress in an interview barely even falls within the domain of leadership development. Attending inspirational lectures by corporate leaders may provoke important thought and reflection, but those seeds quickly shrivel without ongoing nurturing and maintenance. While we liked the mentorship program idea, we found that many students are simply too busy to leverage this optional resource. Of those who do, many voiced complaints about their mentor's lack of availability and/or their poor mentorship skills.

In addition, it became quite clear that all of these initiatives lacked the core components that make up the foundation of our talent management programming for HIPOs and senior level executives. These components include:

  1. Deep self-awareness through a rigorous, multi-modal assessment process.
  2. The ability to identify and leverage leadership strengths
  3. The knowledge of personal derailers and how to ensure they don’t hinder work performance.
  4. The attitude and recognition that leadership development is not a body of knowledge that can be learned in a book, but rather a continuous, lifelong journey of self-discovery and self-improvement.

In June 2010, AIIR Consulting decided to address these four critical areas through a program called ROADMAP. In the ROADMAP for MBA program, the participant takes a comprehensive assessment, and insight is garnered about one's self, strengths, and derailers. A personalized development plan is created and then implemented with the assistance of a business psychologist. We feel strongly that this level of personalization will help today’s MBA student bridge the current gap between the ‘professional knowledge’ they acquire through the traditional curriculum and the leadership competencies they must develop to become successful and socially responsible leaders.

Over the next six weeks, we plan to roll out a series of articles covering the core areas that ROADMAP assess for:

  • Emotional Intelligence
  • Critical thinking
  • Styles & Motivations
  • Personality
  • Derailers.

We believe these critical areas combine to make up the type of self-awareness required for a business leader in today’s increasingly complex, globalized, and rapidly changing business landscape. Please subscribe to the AIIR blog or bookmark this page in order to participate in this learning series.

Yours Truly,
The AIIR Team