Are Leaders born in MBA Classes?

Well what inspired me to write this article was:  not long ago (rather two days back) in a fine class of my venerable professor of Advanced learning and development, a topic came up for discussion and the above mentioned theme was a question she asked all of us. The source of the question was a HBR case study of Goldman Sachs leadership development academy in the class. As the pedagogy of some of our subjects consists of only HBR case studies followed with discussions of the articles given to be read along with the cases, we have been party to many such discussions and an entire elective subject was dedicated to power and leadership courtesy by another professor. We have been bombarded with quite a lot of literature on leadership. As usual for a typical MBA class where things are always being evaluated, it being a cut throat competitive world one’s voice needs to get heard and thus started a long discussion.

So my friends gave their two cents on leadership to our professor with concepts citing articles and other jargon which I wouldn’t inflict on my readers (hence not mentioning those over here ) but the critical point being that are leaders born or are they groomed or does your typical MBA with its unpredictable time schedule, loads of assignments, evaluative classes with exam and not to forget the place com pressure of attending long company ppt’s (some of them indeed pretty boring and repetitive. I hope my future employer doesn’t read this article and make a face :p) makes you perform far better than you could have thought. If one asks me I would say that it has indeed help me realise many other facets of my personality which I was not aware of earlier but does it make me a leader or enhances my leadership skills, I am still exploring that. This self-doubt is not because I am afraid of leading or uncertain of my capabilities but in most of the cases a typical MBA class is all about me, myself (Irene is not here the old Jim Carrey movie) It is not about one man leading and others following or others even accepting because acceptance labels you with a lesser mortal tag and those in an MBA (at least in the class if not the outside world )wouldn’t like to think themselves of any less than the typical Alpha male wolf or the mother elephant of the herd, and personally I feel that leadership is an evolutionary process its’ not that one fine day you grow two horns on your head that initiates you into this elite class.

When it comes to group discussions to get selected for the interviews for summer placements I have seen otherwise really docile and decent classmates of mine turning on the aggressive side. The perception being that the recruiters would like to have aggressive and pushy people and hence the aggression all over the place and in some cases the group turning into a fish market and the entire group gets scrapped, but do aggressive people makes good leaders? Especially in today’s world where things are very transient and conditions change within days if not months and years.

So who belongs to this elusive and really sought after species called leaders. If you all remember in our childhood when we would be left all alone on the school ground and start playing with our friends there will be this one daring adventure spirited friend of ours whom everyone would like to follow he would be the leader of the pack when it comes to naughtiness he would be the one to lay rules which others would gladly follow since given the unfamiliar condition they may not know how to react. Similarly even now as adults when a group of us are pushed into uncharted territory (which an MBA course often does) we look among each other and try to find ways to deal with what’s given to us and that is when it is absolutely necessary to keep your calm to maintain your composure try and remember all that you have retained from your previous experience to help your group overcome the situation. Thus it is as Skinner would say the environment which caused or conditioned you to search for the skills in your repertoire to take care of the situation and hence an MBA class indeed develops leaders. So to dissect this situation a little further what are the kinds of these people; are they the extravert’s energy filled life of the party type people who are genetically made to take the first step who clash in and thus usurp the position leaving the introverts who would assess the situation with deep thoughts and then come up with a solution with a distinct disadvantage. I think not because as a leader it is also imperative how well would you be taken by the others in the group since one may usurp the position of a leader temporarily but the acid test comes in helping the members in times of distress holding the fort when everything else seems to slip in darkness and thus whether an alpha male or mother elephant (matriarch) ones position will only be granted by the followers and cannot be taken by will and here it does not make a difference whether you are extrovert or introvert.

So since I believe that the ingredient or the potions of witchcraft that makes a leader consists of both genetic as well as environment conditions and thus a MBA class may be a fertile ground to develop these skills rather groom someone to be a leader. I would whole heartedly appreciate readers who may disagree with me and comment on this article to increase my own paradigm of leadership

Yours truly


Soumya Sarkar

I am an eternal optimist and believe that everything is possible if we persevere to achieve it. I finished my masters from Tata Institute of Social Sciences in HRM&LR in 2015, I was part of the GMC cadre of Mahindra & Mahindra from campus and have recently moved on to Welspun Group. My interests lie in leadership development and organizational effectiveness.