The prestige and credibility of an MBA is a major drawcard for many people who decide to pursue the executive programme. While an MBA comprises of multiple elements, there are certain core business skills that stand out across industry sectors and career fields as drivers in professional success.
In today’s climate of digitisation and disruptive change, MBA skills can reach beyond traditional business environments and help companies cope with change.1 Business professionals aren’t the only people who stand to benefit from MBA skills. Technical professionals need to understand business goals and objectives in order to support and align all aspects of a company. In a largely technology-dominated society and global context, an awareness of how technology meshes with business and finance is critical in effective business execution.2
The days when an IT boss could blithely ignore business issues to focus on optimizing IT technologies and services are rapidly fading into history.3
With the interconnectivity of functions across organisations, gaining a holistic overview of business is a skill that doesn’t, and shouldn’t, discriminate across professions. Whether you are a business leader looking to increase your reach and move up the corporate ladder; a technology expert wanting to understand business essentials; or anyone with a desire to equip yourself with the skills to increase your business and social intelligence, these MBA Skills could help accelerate your career:
1. Leadership and Teamwork
According to the Financial Times, “the most interesting current research on leadership recognises that teams whose members acknowledge the particular expertise of other team members, mostly work better than teams governed from the top down by rigid command-and-control hierarchies”.4
In any work environment, solid leadership skills and the ability to work with a diverse group of people are sought-after attributes, and a strong grasp of both can help propel your career forward. This requires a firm understanding of people’s individual needs. Being aware of people’s backgrounds, both professionally and culturally, allows you to contextualise their expectations and perspectives and respond or react appropriately. Understanding your audience and being open to collaboration between different people and ideas makes for a highly effective, confident, and trusted leader.5 In her TedTalk, Forget the Pecking Order at Work, author and entrepreneur Margaret Heffernan notes, “For years, we’ve thought that leaders were heroic soloists who were expected, all by themselves, to solve complex problems. Now, we need to redefine leadership as an activity in which conditions are created in which everyone can do their most courageous thinking together.”6
2. Prioritisation and Strategy
The ability to prioritise was “cited by 72% of employers” interviewed by the Financial Times as one of the most important MBA skills. Without this, it’s impossible to implement tasks or get anything done.8 Together with time management, prioritisation relates to strategy and having the foresight to decide when and how to complete tasks most effectively, to achieve the big-picture-goal in an organisation.
3. Understanding the Digital impact on business
A Forbes analysis found that while organisations realise the inevitable digital impact on business, 84% of companies don’t have the necessary talent or infrastructure to cope with the anticipated level of disruption.9Businesses need people who understand how to evolve together with technology, to be successful in the digital age.
The rate at which technology is disrupting traditional processes and practices makes it difficult for people to prepare. While business degrees largely focus on fundamentals, adopting a forward-thinking mindset is a core MBA skill. To remain relevant, professionals will need to be adaptable and respond well to change. Chief executive of General Motors, Mary Barra, says success is largely dependent on how well people are able to adapt to ever-changing customer and contextual needs.10 Maintaining a flexible approach in business, a willingness to change, and an awareness of what the digital impact on your industry might look like is invaluable in the global context of business today.11
Growing your network is a valuable MBA skill both inside and outside of your industry. Coming into contact with people from around the world with similar interests, diverse business backgrounds, and various skill-sets can translate to collaboration opportunities in the future. Much like an on-campus MBA, online programmes attract a diverse range of people from across the globe, broadening your professional and personal network. While networking skills are not formally taught, the opportunity to connect with people and maintain relationships presents a diverse learning environment and can be instrumental in developing interpersonal skills and business success.
5. Ability to solve complex problems
An analytical mindset is a methodical way of thinking whereby problems are broken down into single manageable components allowing you to solve them more effectively.12 The ability to see a problem from different angles and determine multiple possible solutions is an essential MBA skill that will be applicable in every aspect of business. It is this type of thinking that separates successful leaders and drives change in company policy and culture.
Important take away
Whether your expertise lies in numbers, business, or people – acquiring MBA skills is about elevating your professional acumen to understand the nuances of people and finance, and provides context for every internal and external business decision.13 Moreover, no matter your role, mastering MBA skills could make you an asset to any organisation, large or small, as it effectively hones your soft skills. This expertise, together with relevant industry experience and a strong tangible skill set could boost your job performance, making you stand out from the crowd.
In the age of digitisation and change, the benefits of having MBA skills may reach beyond traditional business environments.
- 1 Stockport, G. (Mar, 2018). ‘How an executive MBA degree does a great deal in advancing one’s career’. Retrieved from Entrepreneur.
- 2 Edwards, J. (Feb, 2018). ‘7 ways an MBA will advance your IT career – and 5 ways it won’t’. Retrieved from CIO.
- 3 Edwards, J. (Feb, 2018). ‘7 ways an MBA will advance your IT career – and 5 ways it won’t’. Retrieved from CIO.
- 4 Hill, A. (Sep, 2016). ‘Can business schools prepare students for a 70-year career?’. Retrieved from Financial Times.
- 5 Villanova School of Business. ’10 important soft skills developed by MBA students’. Retrieved from Villanova School of Business.
- 6 Heffernan, M. (2015). ‘Forget the pecking order at work’. Retrieved from TedTalk.
- 7 Moules, J., Nilsson, P. (Aug, 2017). ‘What employers want from MBA graduates – and what they don’t’. Retrieved from Financial Times.
- 8 Panda, A. (Dec, 2014). ‘10 most important skills that can be learnt at business school’. Retrieved from LinkedIn
- 9 (Jan, 2016). ‘The state of digital business report’. Retrieved from Odgersberndtson.
- 10 Hill, A. (Sep, 2016). ‘Can business schools prepare students for a 70-year career?’. Retrieved from Financial Times.
- 11 Hill, A. (Sep, 2016). ‘Can business schools prepare students for a 70-year career?’. Retrieved from Financial Times.
- 12 Panda, A. (Dec, 2014). ‘10 most important skills that can be learnt at business school’. Retrieved from LinkedIn
- 13 Moules, J., Nilsson, P. (Aug, 2017). ‘What employers want from MBA graduates – and what they don’t’. Retrieved from Financial Times.