GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Dr. Amanda
Title of Paper:
Success in Developing Leadership Capability in Business School Classrooms
Paper Proposal Text :
The decision to invest a year or more of your life in an MBA should be a decision that changes your career path forever. The right educational and developmental experience should transform an individual so that he or she becomes significantly more effective at achieving business results after the program than before entering the program. The challenge faced by higher education institutions is that they must prepare graduates to take action and deliver results in complex business environments, while operating within a physical classroom setting that has evolved from education designed to teach knowledge rather than skill.

It is therefore not surprising that a study of 90 top global employers by Hult Labs (2014) found that the majority of hiring managers consider business schools to be becoming less relevant to their future hiring needs. Interviewees stated that business schools over-emphasize theory in place of actual capability, and that they don’t develop and measure crucial skills. The essential core skills named by these managers, such as self-awareness, cross-cultural competency, complex problem solving and critical thinking, are similar to the top ten skills required by the workforce in 2020 according to a recent World Economic Forum report (WEF, 2016).

In response to these needs, Hult International Business School developed a leadership curriculum to run alongside core business subjects during the one-year MBA degree. Our objective was to design a curriculum that prepared students to be job-ready from the first day of employment. This curriculum was launched in the academic year 2014/15 with 635 MBA students from 79 countries studying on five international campuses (Dubai, Shanghai, London, Boston and San Francisco). The precursory step in this transformational education is working with incoming students to develop a Growth Mindset, a set of beliefs that must be internalized in order to optimize the ability to develop in a given skill (Dweck, 2006). Following this, students identify their own developmental targets from a menu of core competencies that map onto three foundations: Adaptive Thinking, Interpersonal Influence and Team Collaboration. Leadership development classes equated to almost 20% of the total credits for the MBA year. Students were measured on their core competency capability in the first few weeks of the year, during the year, and then before graduation.

Results, measured by both self-assessment and peer feedback, demonstrate that it is possible to substantially improve MBA students’ leadership behaviors in parallel to their development of knowledge in core subjects. In the first year of the program, over 60% of students on all five campuses demonstrated a sustained improvement in key behaviors such as the ability to resolve conflicts constructively, persuasively sell a vision, or take initiative even under conditions of uncertainty. However, there is a spread in the results. While some students were able to demonstrate enormous change during the program, a proportion of students (10-20% by campus) demonstrated no improvement. Data analysis indicates that 1) leadership skills and academic skills are separate skill sets, i.e. high capability in academic subjects did not co-vary with high capability in leadership skills (as measured by peer feedback); and 2) the ability to develop leadership capability was not determined by nationality of origin or region of tuition. However, in line with Dweck’s (2006) Growth Mindset theory, there is evidence that the degree of effort students make across the program is a key determinant of the extent to which they will show behavioral development. The paper further discusses Aggarwal, Goodell and Goodell’s (2014) suggestion that the use of GMAT as a selection mechanism for business school admission is selecting against certain desirable leadership behaviors in its future graduates, such as the ability to operate under uncertainty, and ethical decision-making.

Aggarwal, R, Goodell, JE, & Goodell, JW (2014). Culture, Gender, and GMAT Scores: Implications for Corporate Ethics. Journal of Business Ethics, 123(1), 125-143.

Dweck, CS (2006). Mindset: The new psychology of success. New York: Random House.

Hult Labs (2014). The Future of Business Education and the Needs of Employers: A report by Hult Labs commissioned by Hult International Business School March 2014. Retrieved from

World Economic Form (2016). The Future of Jobs: Employment, Skills and Workforce Strategy for the Fourth Industrial Revolution. Retrieved from: