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Old 05-01-2011, 08:19 PM
115 posts, read 281,178 times
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I have noticed that in the ideology of American management theory and MBA applications that there is the axiom that:
It is absolutely necessary that the entrepreneur or executive in charge has charismatic leadership qualities
To be successful as an entrepreneur, one must have extraordinary interpersonal skills and leadership qualities.
(unwritten) A suave charismatic jock type should be admitted to an MBA program over a socially inept nerd.
It is absolutely necessary for the leader to have excellent interpersonal skills in order for the employees to do their job.
However, the following is the case: In the right situation, a person who would in theory lack the leadership and interpersonal skills to succeed in business can end up being a tremendous success, in the right niche. The way some management textbooks portray it, if the manager or executive lacks interpersonal skills, the employees will not do the work. However, there are millions of employees that will do their job at the required level or even at an excellent level regardless of whether or not their boss has excellent interpersonal skills. Millions of people despise their bosses or company and still do their work at a required, above average, or even spectacular level. Are the millions of sweatshop laborers, miners, and other workers in the world all inspired by their company or boss?
However, in reality I know of several cases of people who lack the theroretical interpersonal skills needed to make it in business, yet are extremely successful.
I know of the CEO of a mid-level hedge fund who is worth 100 million dollars. In social situations, he makes every faus pass imaginable, looks geeky, has zero charisma, and is not much of a people person. However, he has the following things going for him:
In his niche he is able with his analytical skills to gain spectacular returns attracting investors.
Many of his top analysts work for him based on the funds reputation and their respect for his investing prowness, not because he is extremely savy at wooing them.
His routine employees do their jobs because the competitive pay is decent and they enjoy the work.
He has a right hand man ( that he compensates with equity in the fund) who has excellent sales ability that brings in the investors. Additionally, his trophy wife is ultra ultra ultra savy at bringing in business.
The head manager of the largest movie cinema in my city has poor ability to relate to people, gains zero respect from subordinates, and has no ability to inspire whatsoever. Yet her cinema brings in money like gangbusters. Why:
She has an excellent understanding of the dynamics of running a cinema. She is able to predict down to a tee, the exact amount of inventory to order for the concession stand to balance spoilage versus running out, is able to calculate precisely how often to show a movie, when to stop showing it, how many concession stand workers to schedule for any given new release date, weekend, weekday, how to schedule restroom cleanings down to precise hour, etc. She has such excellent planning and inventory-cash flow management ability, that she is able to have excellent numbers despite the fact that she often fires and replaces many people. It does not hurt that she has a few very hard working immigrant employees who for cultural reasons work hard for authority.
A job-shop manufacturing company owner. He is somewhat week communication skills, is not that interpersonally savvy, yet is very successful and has 20 million dollar business: Why: He is a wiz at the dynamics of the process of job shop manufacturing, and is able to produce excellent quality at low cost. Thanks to his excellent technical ability and understanding of the complex dynamics of inventory, cost, and the ability to plan the process of each job, he is able to win government bids and has a few very large long term customers. He has only average actual selling skills and his ability to lead and inspire is just OK.
Also in technology, there are countless stories of business teams where one founder is the geek and the other the leader/salesman. For instance, Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak and Paul Allen of Microsoft was relatively weak in people ability compared to Bill Gates and Steve Balmer, yet Paul Allen made it.
I guess to summarize, my questions is why is it that MBA admissions ideology view a suave Jock leader with excellent interpersonal skills and the right image as more worthy of admission then a nerdy awkward type who has an excellent understanding of a particular business process such as investment management, mortages, manufacturing,etc, when:
There are some people who have the "Interpersonal Skills" needed to qualify to get into an MBA program and in theory thrive in business, who manage to get high level executive jobs but based on poor decisions bring the companty down.
But there are some people who have such an excellent grasp of a particular busines process that they manage to create great wealth and thrive in business by any measure despite the fact that they would appear at an MBA interview to "lack interpersonal skills" and have less social skills then the average middle manager.
Any thoughts would be appreciated.
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Old 05-02-2011, 10:31 AM
3,731 posts, read 9,937,803 times
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Wow - a really long post!

First of all - it would obviously depend on the MBA program. Most don't have personal interviews and go strictly on GMAT score, undergraduate GPA/Transcript and/or work experience/personal statement (i.e. essay).

And MBAs are not just for CEOs or future CEOs. The degree is "business administration" - which really now just equivocates to a general understanding of a wide facet of business knowledge.

That said - I'm sure some of the most competitive programs have face-to-face interviews (just as medical schools do) - and in those situations, sure - being a charismatic individual is always going to help. However, as you've mentioned - all types have valuable contributions to make, and as long as you can get across the contribution you can make to the program (diverse point of view, particulare speciality, etc..) and how you think you could use the knowledge you expect to gain -- then I would hope the school would not simply be picking "the most popular kids".
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Old 05-02-2011, 01:54 PM
Location: Paranoid State
11,708 posts, read 8,702,804 times
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Relatively few MBAs become entrepreneurs.

The notion of situational leadership is broad and widely employed. Charisma is not really a part of it.

If the nature of the product sale is on speeds & feeds (engineer to engineer), charisma doesn't have much to do with it, although we've all met people who are on the opposite end - highly abrasive; if you're an a*hole, people don't want to do business with you except under specific circumstances (e.g., in the right case you might want a 'pit bull' for your attorney, and that pit bull might be able to found a law firm).

If the nature of the product sale is pure price (e.g., trading foreign exchange) or pure availability (e.g., low-cost office supplies), charisma doesn't have much to do with it.

When the nature of the product sale is relationship based - then certainly personality factors in, but it is secondary to all the issues that dominate the discussion after the introduction.

In regards to social jock vs. inept nerd -- have you seen The Social Network?
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