Can Institutions Teach Business Leadership? The MBA dilemma

This article was translated from our Spanish edition using AI technologies. Errors may exist due to this process.

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.


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How do you create a great business leader? In Mexico and Latin America, very few entrepreneurs, before starting a company, have the objective of becoming entrepreneurs: it is a role that simply happens for many.

We usually start a company because we have a vision, goal, or product that we believe in and seek to expand. It is then that, when taking action, we are forced to take a leadership position and take charge of the project as entrepreneurs; from one moment to the next, we become leaders of growing companies.

That is why many entrepreneurs \do not feel ready\, so they turn to highly specialized programs such as MBA (Master of Business Administration). The dilemma with these programs is that, as the name implies, they are designed to teach business management, something very different from running and leading an organization.

MBAs are part of a traditional educational model made for the industrial age where what was needed were people capable of working and operating in an industrialized world. The reality is that in 2021, leaders no longer have to invest years in a master\’s degree to see if it will serve them in running their business, they need to learn and execute immediately; what matters today is the knowledge, skills and applicable experience.

Nobody really teaches you how to run a business until you run a business. It is until you find yourself in front of a business that you understand what it means to make difficult decisions, the weight of daily responsibilities, the people who depend on you -employees, suppliers, partners, shareholders-, the challenges of having a profitable company etc. That is why you learn according to the needs of your company and its growth stage (it is not the same to run a startup to a grow up).

Entrepreneur Elon Musk has given a lot to talk about on this topic because, for him, MBA graduates \can be good at PowerPoint presentations but they don\’t know how things work.\ Musk is one of the entrepreneurs recognized for rejecting the traditional role of education because he has no interest in degrees: \MBAs alone do not automatically give the experience to be an effective leader because success is forged by doing useful things.\

I am convinced that MBAs do not teach you how to run a company because I did an MBA 20 years ago. In 1998, after running my first company, I wanted to strengthen my leadership skills and have better tools to be a better CEO, so I enrolled in the Babson College MBA, which I chose as the # 1 MBA in Entrepreneurship by the US News. & World Report.

The reality is that Babson College taught me a lot about critical thinking, I got to meet amazing people from all over the world, I learned a lot about corporate life and had incredible experiences, but today, in running my business, there is very little that I really use. or implement.


Image: Austin Distel via Unsplash

When you walk into the Babson campus the first thing you see is the recruiting office. Shouldn\’t a business school prepare you to start a business, rather than help you get a job? Aren\’t you supposed to get the skills to become a successful CEO? These institutions teach the entrepreneurial mindset but not how to build a business. If business school number one doesn\’t teach you how to lead a company, where can you learn it?

After my experience at Babson I came to the MIT program \Birth of Giants\ and this has been the best business education I have received because I found great methodologies and business ideas; I found a community with experienced entrepreneurs who supported each other through their experience, their struggles, doubts and insecurities; I found mentors who guided and pushed me beyond what I could have accomplished on my own.

I found myself among colleagues who understood the CEO\’s journey from experience – an opportunity I didn\’t have in business school. Only another teammate can understand what is the fear of failing your team for making a bad decision; what it\’s like to work 20 hours trying to move your project forward and how to run a company without losing control of your life.

Although you need a lot of things to run a business, and knowledge is certainly one of them, clients don\’t care if you have an MBA; They only care if your product or service solves a problem or meets their needs; the same with suppliers and employees. The best business education is obtained from experience, surrounding yourself with leadership and obtaining the necessary tools for the growth stage your company is in.