Conscious Leadership Blog
Do I need an MBA to Reach the top?

Do I Need An MBA to Reach The Top?

An Executive Coaching Point of View

I have heard it over and over again: Many successful people come to me and say, “Susanne, do I need an MBA to reach the top?”. And if this is what you think, I invite you to think again.

Did you know that only approximately 40% of CEOs hold a Master of Business Administration (MBA)?

However, according to a  recent Harvard Business Review (HBR) article, entitled ‘Self-Awareness Can Help Leaders More Than an MBA Can’, “many large-scale studies have found that leadership based solely on MBA-trained logic is not always enough for delivering long-term financial and cultural results, and that it is often detrimental to an organisation’s productivity”.(*1)

An MBA might not be a predictor of successful leadership

This HBR article points out that in one study, researchers compared the organisational performance of 440 CEOs who had been in the public eye. The researchers split the CEOs into 2 groups, those with an MBA and those without one, and then monitored their performance for up to 7 years. 

The results showed that the performance of those with an MBA was significantly worse. Another study, which looked at the results of more than 5,000 CEOs, came to a similar conclusion.

MBA's can be useful, but not if you have already mastered those skills

I agree with the authors of the HBR article in that one shouldn’t say that MBAs are not useful in leading an organisation. However, if you have always been a high achiever and top leader in your field, then I invite you to think again about whether an MBA is the right next move for you.

As a Senior Executive, it’s very likely that you have already mastered the skills you could learn through a structured MBA course of study. Rather than following ‘your ego’s request’ and what you may perceive as the market-accepted practice to advance your career, I challenge you to focus your energy on more cutting-edge leadership development strategies, such as self-awareness and conscious leadership, including personal, team, business, organisational and economical consciousness.

Self-awareness is the skill of being aware of our thoughts, emotions, and values from moment to moment. Through self-awareness, we can lead ourselves with authenticity and integrity — and in turn better lead others and our organizations”.(*1)

Effective ways to accelerate one’s self-awareness and conscious leadership

One of the fastest and most effective ways to accelerate one’s self-awareness and conscious leadership of self and others I personally leverage is executive coaching. Executive coaching is, in a nutshell, the art of questioning the client into executive awareness, insight and understanding (of self, others and organisational dynamics).

If this sparks your interest and you are keen to leverage executive coaching as your personal leadership accelerator, too, please feel free to learn more about our executive coaching services.

The HBR itself, conducted its own survey of more than 1,000 leaders in more than 800 companies in over 100 countries and found that leaders at the highest levels tend to have better self-awareness than leaders lower in the hierarchy. (*1)

So, given this, the question is: Do you really need to worry about self-awareness and executive coaching? If you have read thus far, it is very likely that you are very successful in what you are doing anyway, and through your own continuous self-learning, you know how to grow your own self-awareness and conscious leadership skills. But here is the thing: Knowing is not doing, and doing is not being, and for some of us, that can lead to frustration and disappointment at work.

So, I leave you with a few questions and invite you to find your own meaningful answers:

  • Do I want to be a more conscious, self-aware leader?
  • If yes: Why? What tangible benefit, what desirable outcome would I like to see as a result of it?
  • Will an MBA help me to achieve this with a positive ROI?
  • Can I achieve this by myself?
  • Can I accelerate the outcome with a strategic, personal executive coach on my side, and with a better ROI!
  • And, ultimately, should I?!
  • What would being a self-aware, conscious leader look like? Who do I have to be?
  • And what is the ONE thing I can do to raise my level of self-awareness and consciousness on a regular basis, starting RIGHT NOW?

I trust this ‘Executive Coaching Point of View’ helped spark some meaningful thinking. If you feel like discussing your thoughts and answers with your own personal Boutique Executive Master Coach, then please feel free to reach out for expert coaching services.

One last thought..

"If you get what everyone else has, you are competing with everyone else and not standing out. When you focus on developing your own self-awareness, you can be a unique leader in your own right and the sky is the limit!"

Here’s to your success.


This ‘Executive Coaching Point of View’ was inspired by many executive coaching conversations and is based on the

(*1) Harvard Business Review (HBR) article from January 2018 entitled ‘Self-Awareness Can Help Leaders More Than an MBA Can’ by Rasmus Hougaard, Jacqueline Carter, and Marissa Afton’ – a fantastic and worthwhile read.

Photo by Philipp Birmes via Pexels.

☎️ Ask a Specific Question

Please feel free to send me a LinkedIn message with your feedback or book in a 15 min call for any specific questions you may have.  I am looking forward to continued meaningful connections.

Meet the author

Susanne Rauer, Executive Master Coach at GAIA Coaching – Executive Coaching Sydney, April 2019.

Susanne Rauer

An Executive Coaching Point of View (ExCoVi)

As an Executive Master Coach and Trainer, I am very fortunate to work with various talented, high-achieving and wonderful people. Every time I coach, I learn something new about my client, our society and myself. The summary of thoughts is based on emerging themes across all kinds of interactions I have; be it one-on-one executive coaching, group coaching or coaching training. ExCoVis are meant to invite people to think differently based on scientifically or statistically proven understanding and lateral thinking. None of the content is meant to offend anyone in any way and is rather an invitation to discuss different executive points of view with respect and integrity. The content is shared to raise awareness and to inspire people to integrate their conscious and unconscious mind and therefore transform unconscious behaviour into conscious behaviour.

GAIA Coaching – Your boutique executive coaching partner – Sydney, Australia.


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