MBA May Not Prepare Execs for Real Life

April 10, 2007 ( - While an MBA may provide a budding executive with a strong general education, international executives in a recent study said they did not think the popular business degree also left the person with needed day-to-day skills.

In fact, according to a news release from executive search firm Egon Zehnder International, only 20% of the executives surveyed said that an MBA prepares people to deal with the real-life challenges that a manager must face. The firm completed a survey of 133 top executives at firms in theU.S., U.K., France and Germany. Four in 10 executives surveyed had an MBA.

“Don’t think an MBA alone is a ticket to the executive suite,” advised Boston-based George Davis, aU.S. co-managing partner with Egon Zehnder International, in the news release.

Job seekers need both “functional experience and managerial experience, including managing people and projects,”Davis said. “You get [graduates] out of leading institutions.. They think they can walk right in and know how to do it” — but that’s not always the case, he said.

Only 14% ofU.S. executives, 14% of British executives and 15% of French executives agreed with the statement that “during an MBA, you are trained to deal with the real challenges faced by a manager (e.g. handle crisis, act politically, communicate),” a MarketWatch news report indicated.

Meanwhile, 24% ofU.S. executives agreed that “an MBA provides excellent and adequate preparation for a leadership position,” while 29% of the British executives, 54% of the French executives and 45% of the German executives agreed with that statement. The survey instructed respondents to consider an MBA from a renowned institution, such as Harvard.

Highly Regarded Education

The survey also found thatU.S. universities and colleges are more highly regarded than schools in other countries, with 73% of U.S. executives, 69% of French executives, 55% of German executives and 39% of British executives pointing to the U.S. as the ideal place to educate college-aged students, MarketWatch reported.

When asked to assess executives based on characteristics other than their professional qualifications, 97% ofU.S. executives, 86% of U.K. executives, 85% of German executives and 69% of French executives said ethical behavior was extremely or very important, according to MarketWatch.

For theU.S. and U.K. executives, ethical behavior topped the list of key attributes for an executive.

But personal charisma topped that list for German and French executives, with 95% of German executives and 100% of French executives noting that charisma is an extremely important characteristic for an executive, according to the MarketWatch report.

Study results are here .