Art only begins when you are full.
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How Aspiring MBA's should think differently

Udayakumar Nalinasekaren
Dec 21, 2010

MBAJune 21. 2010 - Today I was reading a Facebook trail of budding Indian MBA's discussing about work. They were basically expressing impatience with mundane work content that needs them to churn out powerpoint presentations and excel sheets day in and day out. Interestingly and coincidentally, I also happened to read an article in livemint.com which talked about the five point failure of the Indian MBA program. This post has nothing to do about the specific individuals who were discussing on Facebook. However, I did see a connection of sorts between both points of view which I wanted to share.

Some of the very young MBA's I have worked with already posses and exhibit  high potential to be well rounded. They are no doubt very capable of scaling the Indian enterprise to Everest like heights as they prepare to take  command going forward. However, they also do seem to have some blindspots.

  • Competence is not just about knowledge

As the Mint article rightly suggests, the Indian B-school system focuses on theory. Competence as we all know is a product of not just knowledge, but skills and attitude as well. While this is not a sweeping statement, many young MBA's tend to assume that they know everything when they graduate. It is usual to see that a majority of them need either a coaching or directing style of leadership in the initial years. It is rarely possible to practice a delegating style of leadership with them from day one. There are also a handful of those who exhibit the 'I have arrived' attitude. They need a completely different management style. What we call as the KITA style of management. Go figure out for yourself what that means!

  • One needs to sweat the small stuff

To be an effective leader, it is important to know how things get done and the challenges in getting them done. Even making a simple presentation needs a lot of collaboration, interpersonal acumen and having to work with imperfect data to start with. Developing an understanding of how work gets done makes one relate to a subordinates point of view, their emotional states, and think in those shoes when holding the leadership mantle. Emotional Intelligence is a key ingredient for effective leadership.

  • It is probably too early and dangerous to want to hover near the moon on day one

Arriving at the moon may be the desired end state. However, there is a lot to do and learn during the initial parts of the journey. Astronauts go through a grilling period of preparation that runs for several years before they can even set foot inside a rocket. While the focus on the mission at the moon is important, it is equally important to be focused on all the current opportunities at hand and leverage maximum learning from them. Ability to introspect and identify learning opportunities in current assignment that are relevant to the end state is key for developing the ability to be a thought leader.

  • Last but not least - it is very lonely at the top

Have you been at the top of a cliff all by yourself? The view is breathtaking. The cool wind is on your face. You feel elated but you feel lonely. Career cliffs offer similar experience. Nobody is watching you under a lens. At the same time, there is nobody to guide you as well. Some of the toughest decision making situations will confront you. It is absolutely essential to develop a personal mastery strategy right from step one of your journey to the top. Incorrect decisions and indiscipline will result in a fall. The intensity of the pain will be relative to the height.

Do not mistake me. I don't intend to portray our young Indian talent in any poor light. They are bright and talented. The Internet empowers the younger generation with fingertip information like never before. Such knowledge empowerment should not be confused with competence. Building competence takes it's due course and needs the attitude to leverage available opportunities to the best extent. So don't complain young MBA's.. Get on with your work and try to make a difference ... with all your recognized strengths.

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