Lesser functional leadership, greater influential leadership required in Business Schools

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  • November 14, 2014
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Leading business schools in India compete for and attract a large number of engineering graduates. Engineers have natural inkling to gravitate towards the more technical courses and the business schools cater to this demand by provide wide offering of technical course in finance, decisions sciences, process engineering etc. It is great to pick up these functional skills and for sure they serve well as an entry point for the career changer.

The role of an MBA graduate is not just to do the functional task but also to create value in a manner that makes sense to the organisational purpose. In the new economy, a large part of that value creation will come from being entrepreneurial, experimental, and collaborative whether its to create or transform an enterprise. And this requires skills of influencing, communicating and inspiring a diverse set of stakeholders. In the future it will be leadership though influencing and inspiring rather than direct authority.

When I taught students back in India, students expressed surprise that they had not had the opportunity to practice influencing and presenting techniques.

For business schools it’s a choice between customer satisfaction (choices students make for themselves) and customer welfare (choices the school makes for its students). The good news is that changes are coming through in business schools in India and around the world. For students pursuing a strategy major, change management course becomes compulsory. It makes sense as you can’t execute on a strategy unless you can transform the business, move the people, and make the change easier to adopt. In the west business schools are focussing on experiential learning.

It’s not enough. Business schools need to have a wider berth of offerings that help students to lead, influence, inspire and collaborate. These offerings should be promoted relentlessly for fitness for future purpose and outcomes. One radical solution could be to bring back an MBA class for a weeklong immersive training on these softer skills, a few years after their main course has completed.

This could become part of the standard offering — for business schools its future proofing the next generation of leaders and the school’s brand.

Viren Lall, MAPM is an international entrepreneurship instructor, an adjunct professor of management, and an experienced business transformation consultant. This post is a copy of the article published by LEDMAC in its magazine Advanced Insights, distributed at the FICCI Higher Education Conference in New Delhi on November 14-15 2014.

- Viren Lall, London