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B-schools don't teach leadership skills

Last updated on: November 07, 2006 12:59 IST

You can learn about management from an MBA course, but it can't teach what kind of manager you should be.

You need to discover your leadership style on your own: Are you a delegator or a hands-on manager? Should you lean more towards vision or action? Do you need to be task-driven or would it be better to build relationships? These are concepts you learn through 360-degree feedback and real-life interaction, not in B-school.

A B-school can never teach you people skills. Managing teams is often about building emotional bank accounts with them; that's something you can't learn in an institution. Nor can an MBA course teach you to identify and recruit senior leaders for your organisation.

Also, there isn't enough emphasis on execution. Regular process reviews to ensure strategic initiatives get converted to day-to-day operations is a critical part of running a business, but B-schools tend to overlook its importance.

Management education in India comes up short in dealing with global businesses. Not much attention is paid to the intricacies of dealing with international customers and colleagues.

But perhaps this is an area where practical experience counts more: Real life makes you better global citizens than any course in an insulated institution can ever hope to. Another area where B-schools can never hope to replicate real-life experience relates to the strategic insights and discoveries around new market developments.

The ability to recognise underserved or unserved markets, and act upon that information, comes only when you are fully engaged in the real world. New business ideas usually spring from your operating environment, not from reading about business strategy.

Finally, B-schools don't build in their students an ability to move out of their comfort zones, whether it is behavioural (the discipline point made above), or about switching jobs or businesses.

Of course, I don't know how much of this is a trainable attribute, but it is a big part of big successes and needs to be recognised as such.

Sanjeev Aggarwal is managing director, Helion Venture Partners. He graduated from Punjab University in 1984.

-- As told to Meenakshi Radhakrishnan-Swami

Sanjeev Aggarwal