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Excelling in the Boardroom: the modern-day importance of an MBA

Excelling in the Boardroom: the modern-day importance of an MBA. By Ian Johnston

Amid increasing global economic turmoil, one necessity in the business world is clear: the need for astute decisions under immense financial pressure. Such decisions will shape an organization’s boardroom and drive its fortunes but who is to make them? Those individuals with prominent business acumen are the obvious choice but identifying and selecting them can be a risky business for multinational corporations. An MBA qualification goes some way to minimizing, or at least predicting, this risk.

Certainly, “in today’s competitive business environment, an MBA is an essential pre-requisite for personal corporate advancement,” explains Peter Oppenheim, Associate Head of School (Programs) at Deakin University. Individuals holding this essential qualification are given an immediate head start in the corporate arena as they already possess a solid aptitude for business.

In fact, MBA graduates hold an exceptional advantage over those without the qualification. The “studies expose students to a multitude of real life cases coming from the teachers, books, research journals and peers. Therefore an MBA student is someone who will be equipped to generate more ‘out of the box’ solutions than normal employees,” explains Dr. Navin K. Veerapa, MBA Program Director at La Trobe University.

“The MBA assists students in identifying different management approaches and how these can be adapted to result in successful outcomes.” As such, the program is clearly focused towards molding students that will excel beyond the realm of the university and into that of the organization.

However, beyond affording students an insight into the world of business and boardrooms, MBA programs should develop both the fundamental skills of commerce and, importantly for prospective business leaders, the advanced skills required to stand out in a corporation. Masachika Suzukim, Associate Dean at the International University of Japan (IUJ), describes the “basic principles of finance, accounting, marketing, human resource management and IT” as fundamental core skills to any successful businessperson.

Yet furthering these basics, the MBA program at IUJ develops the ability to, “1) observe and analyze long-term business trends; 2) deliver [the student’s] messages to colleagues and clients; [and] 3) encourage and motivate them to achieve the organizational goal as a team.” And these skills can surely be considered to provide graduates with both the knowledge and competence to achieve in the business environment, as well as the edge to get there in the first place.

An MBA graduate is an attractive prospect for potential employers and the degree can be influential in the recruitment process. Mr. Suzuki explains that “an MBA can be a ticket to an interview,” yet is cautious of total reliance on the qualification. “The MBA can open the door, but if the student hasn’t developed the business acumen, and as importantly these days, communication and leadership skills to handle a diverse work place they may be over looked.”

However, it would be foolish to ignore the impact of an MBA; the degree speaks volumes for a graduate’s commitment, dedication and intelligence. In this vein, Philip O’Neil, Director of the MBA Japan Program at McGill University believes that “a quality MBA such as the McGill MBA Japan program sends a signal that the individual is extremely hard working, very well organized, and can speak with a wide range of business professionals. I think it gives individuals a distinct advantage in the doors that will open for them.”

This comment raises an interesting issue: that of quality. With such an overwhelming wealth of MBA courses found at institutes across the world, students need to be assured of the quality of their qualification and that it indicates their competence. But what constitutes a quality MBA and how can courses be distinguished from one another?

Mr. O’Neil cites a number of factors: “A quality MBA brings together a number of different people. First, there should be excellent professors who possess a solid academic background, so that they can examine the various theoretical or research-driven aspects of business. The students should also be capable and experienced. Most learning in an MBA program is between the students.” Therefore, on a quality course, capable students will aid and benefit each other whilst also learning from the tangible experience of the teaching staff. It seems a clear formula for success and one that will truly preen students and graduates for the working environment and the crucial decisions of the corporate boardroom.

Individuals and personal goals vary greatly, however, and recognizing such, La Trobe University’s “course offers the candidates the ability to design their own MBA program by choosing their electives from specific streams that are aligned to specific areas of potential employment.” In this sense, the malleable and specifically focused course enables graduates to reach their desired destination.

Most quality MBAs appear to have a number of similar approaches and overall goals. As such, programs must offer a unique factor that separates their course from the others whilst also ensuring graduates are briefed and ready for the professional boardroom. Almost without fail, the top universities can offer this.

Deakin University’s course, for example, provides “graduates with not only a theoretical background to business but also a practical background with intensive analysis and synthesis of practical business problems throughout the MBA course.” Meanwhile, the MBA program at McGill employs teaching staff “directly from the Desautels Faculty of Management on our home campus in Montreal, where they are at the forefront of research and teaching.”

But with reference to the current global uncertainty, IUJ place emphasis on the forward thinking subjects of commerce such as “CSR [and] green business development tactics to help [their students] be effective and sensitive leaders in our globalizing and environmentally stressed situation.”

Indeed, in our current situation, both economic and environmental, MBAs perhaps hold more importance than they ever have. Shrewd, informed judgment, intelligent perception and broad leadership are required within the world’s leading corporations. And these are exactly the type of attributes possessed by the incisive businesspeople learning on the top MBA programs today and excelling in the competitive boardroom tomorrow.


“in our current situation, both economic and environmental, MBAs perhaps hold more importance than they ever have.”

“beyond affording students an insight into the world of business and boardrooms, MBA programs should develop both the fundamental skills of commerce”

“An MBA graduate is an attractive prospect for potential employers and the degree can be influential in the recruitment process.”


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