Tuesday, March 06, 2012

You Can't Teach "Leadership"

Just as you can't teach integrity or morals.

But MBA schools and colleges sure can charge a lot of money to a lot of naive people making them think such things can be "taught."

Which behooves a question (that I ask in my book):

"How, precisely, does a 22 year old fresh out of "business school" think he's smart, able or experienced enough to lead anything?"

I know, I know. Why ask the question.


Anonymous said...

Hey, it's the accounting and finance guy from a couple posts back. When my mother graduated with a Harvard MBA decades ago, the MBA was a worthwhile degree because it wasn't particularly common and people attributed some significance to it.

These days it's a checkbox to move into some upper-management professions so every bargain-bin school is offering an MBA. I know a girl who's working and getting her MBA from a very small regional school (the kind that nobody out of state has ever heard of) - sure to impress all of her future employers. Knowing her type her goal is to be married with kids and only nominally working within the next 3-5 years. Diapers and baby supplies would be a better use of that money, but she had to get the stupid graduate degree.

Furthermore, I'm a TA for several management classes (worthless major, my boss just doesn't realize I left it yet or I'd lose the job), one of which is an MBA class. Do you know what my instructions are for grading their reflection papers (relating class concepts to work experiences)? If it looks like they put thought into their one-page paper, give them 100%. If it looks like they could have done a bit more with it, 90%. Anything else that isn't just absolute crap, 80%. There is literally nothing objective about it at all.

But don't worry, they've read books. This will more than qualify them to oversee people who have worked in a given field for years and actually understand how things are done.

One of the bigger issues, though, at least in my mind, is the way every single corporation fellates the concept of leadership. I've heard of corporations with thousands of employees that operate on the idea that everybody should be a leader. Now I've only spoken English for 22 years, but to me the existence of leaders is predicated upon the existence of followers in greater numbers. If the organization doesn't hire any really hard-working, smart, dedicated followers, then there really aren't leaders, just a smug circle-jerk.

But that's just another aspect of how HR people all think their company is entitled to the top 5% of the best schools and don't want to dirty themselves touching any lesser mortals who might need a few hours of training. Also, these superhumans will all be intrinsically motivated because they just love their jobs so dang much, and will therefore be happy to work 80-hour weeks for $40k a year. What's that? Thousands of unemployed people in the field but we can't find anybody that meets our criteria? Well, American education just isn't good enough, we better look overseas.

Captain Capitalism said...

You will LOVE this post then. Get to the point where I get all of the students to test their own IQ's and some of the girls start crying when they (finally) do the math right, get their percentile ranking and start crying when they realize they're so stupid:


Anonymous said...

Oh, my God, I completely can relate to that post! That's what things like the undergrad classes I work with are: a miniscule handful of people that actually know what's going on and a whole mass of other people that need their hands held the entire way. 1-page papers are hard for them. Basic English is too hard for them. The professor is scared of bad ratings, so she lets them walk all over her and constantly curves the hell out of their scores. If it were up to me, at least 30% of both of those classes would be failing.

I mean I've watched people fail extremely introductory multiple-choice tests, even when on virtually every question 40% of the answers are obvious garbage. I had to proctor a couple people taking a test over material I hadn't looked over for more than two years. For grins, I decided to take it at the same time as them; I did it in less time than them and got 98%. This was their final.

The Halo thing, though, kinda reminded me of my boss trying to get me to dig up movie scenes and YouTube videos to serve as teaching materials. It feels like I'm being asked to turn a class for college kids into a middle school class because softie business minor stuff is tooooo haaaaard for them. They're just worn out from their rigorous coursework in communications and sexuality studies - insert Worthless plug here.

Anonymous said...

You CAN teach integrity and morals.

You just can't do it to grown adults. Too late!

You can teach leadership. That is the whole point of military academies, ROTC, and OCS.

CBMTTek said...

I kind of disagree with the assessment that you cannot teach leadership.

Granted, if you do not have the drive, character, and motivation to be a leader, no amount of training will make you one. But, being a leader is something that you learn your entire life. Building character is something that goes on from the first moment your parents hand you some responsibility.

If you have it in you to be a leader, then training can help you improve that trait.

The problem occurs when you begin to think that sending any old schmuck to a leadership development course somehow turns them into leaders.

Captain Capitalism said...

ROTC I will give a lot more credit than the "Harvard School of Business."

And any true businessman who cares about his business will hire a lieutenant out of the military before he hires an ass-kissing, blue blood, eastcoast, yesman slime from Harvard's business school if they want true leadership.

Arch said...

I think what the Captain means is you can't teach leadership in a classroom. The military is much different because the schooling involves grueling physical activity and extremely stressful situations that are potentially lethal.

Leadership isn't something you can learn from a book. It requires a great deal of experience.

Anonymous said...

YES YOU CAN. You just need enough nicotine.