Paul Danos, Dean Tuck School of Business at
This morning I submitted a piece to QS’s “Top MBA Career Guide” about how a good business school can help students develop not just leadership skills, but also the moral dimension of leadership. In case you are interested, here it is:
Each year, a group of Tuck students travels to rural Omaha, Nebraska to share a meal and conversation with Warren Buffet, one of the most successful investors in history. Next year they will have a chance to talk with him not just about his financial success, but also about the personal success he achieved recently by donating a staggering 85% of his wealth to charity.
Buffet’s decision highlights the unique way that Tuck defines leadership: it is not just about financial or career milestones, but rather it is “the ability to inspire others to strive and enable them to accomplish great things.”
To achieve part of that definition, today’s business leader needs an arsenal of intellectual assets in order to be effective. A good MBA program gives the essential foundations by means of:
- the learning from faculty and fellow students in courses,
- the honing of analytical and communications skills,
- and the exposure to the practice of management in projects, internships and visits of executives.
Most MBA programs are very good at providing these essentials, but in the evolution of a leader these basics are far from sufficient. To achieve the full definition of leadership, much more is needed, and each individual must dig deep within to develop some key personal attributes that fill out the list of leadership requirements. These include:
- A giving spirit — leadership is about helping others achieve great things and that means giving of oneself through mentoring, teaching, introducing, and incenting so that others can lead.
- A balanced perspective — a true leader must take his or her organization beyond the goals of any one business and toward making a contribution to society.
- Self-awareness — leaders will only develop fully if they are aware of their effects on others.
- A moral compass — leaders must demonstrate a heightened sense of right and wrong.
Can an MBA program play a part in this very personal part of leadership development? We believe that the answer is yes, and we have designed several experiences that do just that.
First, Tuck is designed around care for the individual. That is why we choose to limit our scale and to emphasize teamwork. Class size is limited at approximately 240 students, and students spend virtually all of their time – particularly in their first year – working in small, six-person study groups. Within one year, almost every student knows every other student in his or her class.
Second, we will offer coursework that specifically addresses major social problems such as AIDS or child obesity and analyzes the business interface with those problems. In addition, we have field projects where students can work on solutions to seemingly intractable issues such as the health crisis in Africa. Recently, one group of students traveled to Tanzania to work with the Muhimbili University College of Health Sciences in creating a business and feasibility plan for a pharmaceutical manufacturing plant that the College intends to build on land recently granted to them by the Tanzanian National Government. The plant will utilize the human capital assets of the school’s instructors, students, and recent graduates to manufacture pharmaceutical products for Tanzania's domestic market.
"This project was a tremendous learning opportunity for us,” explained Greg Butz, who graduated from Tuck this past June. “We gained insights into the nuances of conducting business in the developing world and an understanding of how business concepts taught in the classroom can be used to create societal good." While theses students’ work was extraordinary, the fact is that projects like these are a regular and integral piece of the MBA program here at Tuck.
Third, all of our students get 360 degree feedback from their team members on their leadership characteristics and are given individual coaching. Every student goes through the Cohen Leadership Development Program, which is tightly connected to the first-year core curriculum. Beyond the curriculum, the program includes self- and peer assessment, goal-setting, design and implementation of individual leadership development plans, a leadership speaker series, career development, and other activities.
Finally, we have created ethics courses that involve a high percentage of our faculty. In the 2005-2006 school year, nearly 50% of our faculty taught in the ethics classes. The coursework goes beyond reviewing models of ethics and gives concrete examples of moral dilemmas related to the various disciplines of business.
As you review various MBA programs, the important thing to remember is this: a great business school can give you not only skills and knowledge, but it can also help to round you out as a leader so that you can make the maximum contribution to your organization, to your fellow workers and to society