Was Steve Jobs’ success in his genes or forged in the fires of his early failures? Was Amazon’s Jeff Bezos born to be a billionaire, or did he have to study the art of leadership?
On the one hand, Great Man Theory suggests people are born with certain qualities and traits that make them better suited to leadership. On the other hand, Behavioural Theories posit that people can become leaders through the process of teaching, learning and observation.
Torrens University MBA Director Dr Justin Pierce believes that the best leaders are a combination of both – those with the capacity for leadership inside them but require the guidance of a strong education to bring their inner leader forward.
He says becoming a better leader was one of the main reasons people embarked on an MBA.
MBA programs, like the one at Torrens University, have been crafted to give MBA students the skills to traverse the ever-changing business environment, and the credibility and confidence to be able to converse with different circles of professionals in their workplace or industry.
“If you’re applying to an MBA, it already shows leadership qualities – taking on the study shows that you are serious about becoming a leader,” he said. “MBA students are ambitious, with nine out of 10 of them already facing multiple priorities; they want to prove they can do it– it’s a challenge; it’s a journey; it’s self-discovery.”
But it is not as simple as opening a textbook and learning the academic theories. According to Dr Pierce, leadership is a “funny thing”.
“It’s not something we can put our hands on. Everyone who comes into the class has their own idea of what leadership is, and they’ve had their own experiences before.”
“Most students come in aspiring to become what they believe every leader should be. But everybody in the room is a leader already.”
The Torrens University MBA has included ‘Dynamic Leadership’ as one of eight core units in its flagship MBA program.
This subject provides students with a foundation of leadership theory, styles, and approaches, and an opportunity for students to assess and build on their own leadership styles throughout the course.
Dr Pierce says when it comes to “teaching” MBA students about being a leader, it’s not so much about classroom activities but more about being introspective.
“To be a leader of any sort, one must figure out what it is that drives them, what are their personal values, and what in their life has helped to shape who they are?”
“That’s the genesis of most leadership programs – it’s figuring out who you are and what you stand for and then inculcating some sort of tool and exposure as to the sorts of behaviours that would be appropriate under different sets of circumstances.”
By building leaders from the inside out rather than relaying academic definitions of what a leader should be, programs like those at Torrens ensure MBA students are confident and ready for future challenges in their own way.
“The world of business and its needs are always changing, so it’s not about being the best in the world, it’s about being the best for the world.”