Talent acquisition – Is it true that…?

mbaYesterday, I was surfing the internet; “googling” as it’s called. Now, isn’t that evidence of an amazing business success when your brand becomes a generic verb or noun? Even Coca-Cola didn’t achieve that; nor did BMW or Vodafone or Tesco. Perhaps 3M did with ‘post-it’ notes and Gillette with his world famous razor blades. ‘Pampers’ (also P&G) was at one time used as a generic name for any disposable diaper. Also the Frenchman Marcel Bich can be extremely proud on his BIC ballpoint pen. And Red Bull is well on its way to become ‘the’ name for any energy drink.

That said, yesterday evening I ‘googled’ the websites of executive search & headhunting firms looking for what they describe as critical leadership attributes and what criteria they define as requirements for entering their candidate database. Apart from the traditional blablabla on thought leadership and proven industry experience, a vast majority of search firms confirm to be fishing exclusively in the ponds that are rich of talents with master degrees and preferably an additional MBA from London School of Economics, Harvard, INSEAD or other top-notch educational institutes. It’s suggested that only these highly educated men and women can bring their client companies to the top. In their views, there is no way that any self-made man or holders of bachelor degrees can make it to senior management positions.

During that web-research exercise, I ended up on another website; not from an executive search firm but for whatever reason I am now on the Harvard Business Review website. I get attracted by the link to ‘The Best-Performing CEOs in the World’. (Have a look; it’s a great overview: http://hbr.org/2013/01/the-best-performing-ceos-in-the-world) Very interesting article and I must say I admire HBR’s sustainability criteria for drafting up that Top100 list. That, nearly two years after his death, Steve Jobs is leading this list is probably no surprise. But what amazes me is that an overwhelming 73% of these very successful CEOs do not hold an MBA. 73%!

So, do these head-hunters have it wrong? I don’t know; but I know the following. Not having an MBA degree are: Victor Mills (the creator of Pampers), Chaleo Yoovidhya (the Thai inventor of Red Bull) and King Camp Gillette (I reckon you know what he invented). By the way, does anyone know the academic qualifications of Sir Alan Sugar? Of Lakshmi Mittal? Of the German Aldi brothers? Of Sir Richard Branson?

Perhaps they all have other attributes; other than top-notch business school degrees. You should wonder why so many non-sponsored MBA students put themselves in a painful and difficult to recover debt position to fund their studies. While it’s proven that you can also reach the top without having those three initials on your resume.

I realise that for today’s students, this is not the best time of the year to publish this blog; you are probably nervously awaiting your study results. Whatever these will be, my message to you is that excellent study results are a great entry ticket to the business world. To also make it to the top in that world, there are other requirements. Such as excellent performance in your entry jobs, commercial awareness and social skills. And to make it one day to the HBR-leadership list, you can add delivery, delivery and delivery. And, a genuine interest in people! Good luck and happy holidays.

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2 Responses to Talent acquisition – Is it true that…?

  1. Great blog. Schools bring you knowledge and theory (free on the internet BTW), but don’t teach you entrepreneurial spirit, risk taking or creativity. Only failures and resilience makes you able to adapt to fast speed of change in technology, political and social environments.

  2. Kristian Bøg says:

    I also find it quite interesting that around a third of all the Fortune 500 CEO’s undergraduate degree’s are in engineering. That isn’t normally a degree you think of when CEO of a multinational corporation is the job title.

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