Why MBAs Make the Worst Leaders

Interesting interview from Henry Mintzberg. As many people know, i am a big fan of Prof. Mintzberg, the head of the business school at McGill University in Montreal and professor of business at Harvard. His point is very well taken. MBAs make rotten leaders. The reason is that they know how to say ‘no’ to everything, are by nature conformist thinkers and non-entrepreneurial. Most of all, though, as Mintzberg points out, they are so full of themselves that they cannot manage others.

Confidence without competence. Which to me is equivalent to arrogance.

MBA courses tend to attract people who aren’t necessarily sensitive to people issues. We have a lot of evidence that these are people more concerned with numbers, and getting themselves ahead, than dealing with people. There’s a wonderful quote which comes from an interview with Harvard professor John Kotter. He did a study of the Harvard MBA class of 1974, tracking their careers. A journalist asked him if the people he tracked were team players. He said no, they want to run the team, create the team and lead it to glory rather than be a member of someone else’s team. And that is the antithesis of team working, wanting to run the team.

The problem with most organizations, though, is that they have become lead by a social clique that doesn’t necessarily care about the people of the organization and think short sighted.  This is closely aligned with the book Freakonmics wonderful chapter about how the people who stole the cookies and candies most from the Good Sam box were the senior management.  It also reflects on the organization that it becomes a bullying organization where people are promoted by who they know and not by their accomplishments.

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