What does business want from an MBA?

Professor Richard Hall, Associate Dean, Management Education, the University of Sydney Business School
Professor Richard Hall, Associate Dean, Management Education, the University of Sydney Business School

Employers want MBAs with a strong mix of leadership and personal skills, according to Professor Richard Hall of the University of Sydney Business School.

With demand for MBA graduates once again on the rise, Professor Hall said research undertaken as part of the development of the University of Sydney MBA highlighted two key themes.

“Employers, and many potential MBA applicants, really wanted a program which was strong on the development of leadership skills and which developed soft skills (which we prefer to call ‘personal skills’) much more seriously,” he said.

“The QS survey findings indicate that, for the first time, improved leadership skills are starting to be recognised by employers of MBAs.

“The report notes that traditionally ‘leadership was found wanting’ – a key reason for our program having a strong emphasis on the development of practical leadership skills and for making Leadership Practice and Development the first core unit undertaken by all our MBAs.”

Professor Hall added he agreed with the QS report finding that business school graduates were still not meeting the expectations in terms of ‘soft skills’ such as communication, interpersonal and strategic thinking’.

“Our aim in the MBA and in all our management education programs is to develop personal and interpersonal skills as practically as you can: through a heavy emphasis on learning by doing,” he said.

“That’s why we get our MBAs to practice their communication skills – giving and receiving feedback, coaching, motivating, asking constructive questions. And it is critical that our MBAs get involved in doing strategy, thinking critically, developing and testing arguments as thought leaders and working on real business projects and real problems. In our view that’s how you get great at the personal skills that really make the difference.

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Ben Ready founded MBA News in 2014 and is the Managing Editor. He is a former business and finance journalist with Australian Associated Press (AAP) and Dow Jones Newswires in London. Ben completed his MBA in 2012 and was awarded the QUT GMAA Entrepreneurship Prize. He is also the founder and Managing Director of RGC Media & Mktng (rgcmm.com.au).