I must react on a post of Tamás Cservenyák, author of “Tudatos vezetés” (Deliberate Leadership) blog. He introduces a book of Mintzberg: the Managers not MBAs. Mintzberg made sharp criticism against MBA courses saying that the attendees were not mature enough, they haven’t had several years of leadership behind, and the MBA classes gave too much analytical skills instead of soft ones. He concludes that MBAs are not skilled managers, instead, they are not trained to manage.
I might agree with his points. MBA does not change your personality and attitude. It gives you techniques and methodologies, and a completely different approach to the business. I know it from my experience. I was not a leader when I started the MBA. It was in 2004, and I have just been promoted to be the leader of the testing group, including one person only. I must say that I had no leadership experience in job that time, but in the college I had had some experience in motivating and influencing people. This was the starting point.
The MBA class that I attended also focused on hard skills, but among them there were some classes and roleplays, where we were able to see how other people react on our behavior. Then I attended some other soft skill trainings, but I must say that the thing helps me most in leadership is my attitude and the ethical intelligence I gained during my childhood and studies.
I think Mintzberg is wrong. When you are to hire a technician you should examine two things: hard skills, how he know methodologies and technology, and soft skills, how he can behave in your team. One can say that as we go upper in the organization, the soft skills becames more focused than hard ones. I think this is not true.
If you are looking for a manager to employ on a high level management job, you must look for both hard and soft skills. But this time hard skills are not technical ones. They are management hard skills. To motivate others you may have soft skills, and if your personality and attitude allows, you will be successful in it. But there is another angle. If you know some different motivation theory and technique, you are able to pick the one, which is most suits your attitude, and you may be able to use it. This is a management hard skill. Knowing different management techniques, methodologies is necessary to be an effective manager.
In Hungary the average manager does not have management hard skills. Once I wanted to introduce Gantt chart in project time planning, they said that they didn’t want to learn such new techniques. Gantt chart have been invented in 1897… The most of Hungarian managers are not on the level of the profession as Henry Ford was in 1920. They do not even understand basic rules of management, they have no clue what gross margin is. They have no clue why their team does not do what they ordered.
Therefore, I think, at least in Hungary, having an MBA is a plus giving you a manager, who has management hard skills, and this is what you cannot get from anywhere else in Hungary.
The reason I was a bit upset by reading the article is that Mintzberg had given a weapon into the hand of managers, who think their management style is the best possible, and – accidentally – they have no MBA degree. And, unfortunately, they don’t even know that there are hard skills of management.