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How To Go From MBA To Business Leader

Expert advice for MBAs from management guru, Bruce Tulgan

Tue Nov 3 2015

MBA programs aim to transform savvy, ambitious professionals into the next generation of global business leaders, managers and CEOs.

But what constitutes a good leader? Is there such a thing as natural leadership ability? And is it really something you can teach?

We spoke to celebrated author and internationally-recognized leadership expert, Bruce Tulgan, to find out how MBA students can become influential business leaders outside the confines of the business school campus.

Described by Management Today as a “management guru”, Bruce is founder and CEO of RainmakerThinking - a management research, training and consulting firm - and lectures regularly at top business schools around the United States.

What makes for a good business leader?

For years I’ve been wrestling with whether or not there’s such a thing as natural leadership ability.

Of course, there probably is. Some people are visionary, charismatic, articulate, filled with ideas, and unusually energetic. They are motivators. They inspire. People want to follow them. But that doesn’t necessarily make them good managers in business.

Nine times out of ten, what’s missing in a management relationship in the real world is not some natural leadership ability – not the “lighting the fire in the belly” – but rather a leader who practices the fundamentals that help people succeed.

bruce round

The more mundane, but absolutely crucial, aspects of leadership are what are most critical: providing direction and guidance, holding people accountable, dealing with failure, and rewarding success.

These are the basic elements of management that are way too often missing from leadership today and by far the most important when it comes to getting more work and better work out of employees and helping them earn more of what they need.

Almost anyone can become a much better manager if they learn those proven techniques. Practice, practice, practice those techniques until they become skills and then habits.

What are the big managing "no-no's"?

The number one “no no” is when managers soft-pedal their authority and fail to provide guidance, direction, support, and coaching until things go wrong and they end up frustrated and angry.

Usually managers would like to do better, but they make the mistake of thinking they don’t have time to manage and lead properly.  The reality is that when managers don’t do the work of supporting, guiding, directing and coaching, things go wrong and then managers end up wasting lots of time solving problems that never had to happen in the first place.

What are the biggest challenges managers face?

Well the number one challenge managers complain about is that they have too much to do and not enough time.  Everybody is being asked to do more and more with less and less. As a result, most managers feel like they are getting squeezed all the time.

What advice do you have for aspiring business leaders?

Make sure you have a clear mission and know exactly where you stand in relation to that mission.

Make sure you are 100% clear on your priorities – especially when it comes to where you will apply your limited resources, most especially the limited resource of your time!

Practice the basics of high structure high substance communication with every person who reports to you directly and require every leader at every level to do the same.