The term “Chief Executive Officer” is believed to have come first into existence (or) acceptance around the year 1917, roughly the time when modern managerial form of business was being shaped in the western world. Much has been written about this role, often considered the pinnacle of the corporate ladder.
A brief look back in time reveals a rather interesting evolution of the CEO. Starting in the 1910s, moving into the 1950s and 1960s (a period that was characterized by major western economies and Japan recovering from the ravages of the second world war) to all the way till today; the CEO has evolved from being an “entrepreneurial individual” who developed his/her own institution to the “corporate leader” of today focused in maximizing “stakeholder value”.
In trying to comprehend whether or not a management degree primes you for the role of a CEO, it is necessary to understand what key attributes characterize today’s CEOs (and hopefully the future CEOs’ too). I understand that a CEO must be honest, positive but not overly optimistic, tough but at the same time inclusive, forward thinking and inspirational. By no means is my list exhaustive but all that I am saying is that the role of a CEO demands a multitude of characteristics, a few of which complement one another and few that do not. That being said, does a management degree equip you with all the aforementioned?
Well, yes and no. Yes, because I believe that management education indeed encompasses both theory and practice that delivers leadership, managerial, entrepreneurial and collaborative skills to the graduate. No, because that is only a part of the picture. The learning comes as much from outside the classrooms as it does from within them. The numerous group assignments will teach you team dynamics, and necessity to engage with & listen to other voices in the room. The coffee break chats will reveal interesting stories of your peers, stories that will be a part of your conversations years down the road after you have left your campuses. The field trips will give you a perspective of the ground realities in a variety of industries. The simulation exercises, business plan competitions, and case challenges will bring you the much needed perspective to understand and analyze the dynamic & complex world of business. The research thesis will initially drive you to think about contemporary and complex issues within your field of interest and later push you to apply the numerous frameworks/ theories/models into practice. I could go on, but let me conclude.
Ace the exams, do the assignments, crack the cases but at the same time, make genuine connections, embrace new experiences, volunteer, learn a new language. In brief, maximize every available opportunity to learn. The path to becoming a CEO is challenging and chances are today’s graduates will progress to become CEOs in a world of business that would have changed drastically than what it is today. The best we can do is to stay prepared. It is not the degree alone but the “MBA experience” that prepares you for this exciting ride ahead. All the best.
References: The Lives and Times of the CEO, a strategy+business report