MBA Statesmen

Business is the second-most popular professional background for politicians but only a few have studied it

George W. Bush is probably the most famous MBA to hold an important political position and he’s one of only a few to have done so. The most common profession for politicians worldwide is law, accounting for 20 per cent or so, with business a close second. However very few of these are people who’ve studied business.

The ex-president's time in the White House may not have served as a prime example of leadership skills, but here are some other MBAs-turned-politicians.

Robert McNamara graduated from Harvard Business School in 1939. He served as the eighth US Secretary of Defence when he was responsible for some of the most crucial decisions made during the Vietnam War, including the use of the chemical weapon Agent Orange and using body counts to measure military success. On a more positive note, McNamara was president of the World Bank from 1968 to 1981, lobbying for better health and education programs in developing countries.

A more recent Harvard MBA is Michael Bloomberg, now in his eighth year of office as Mayor of New York City. The founder of Bloomberg L.P. is reportedly not only the richest individual in New York City, with an estimated wealth of about $16 billion; he also successfully pushed for an extension of the mayor's term limit from eight to twelve consecutive years which allows him to run in this year's mayoral election in November. The move has proved unpopular for a mayor who has enjoyed high approval ratings for his initiatives on education, the environment and expanding municipal car parks.

Fouad Siniora, Prime Minister of Lebanon, earned an MBA from the American University of Beirut. In June 2005 Siniora formed the first Lebanese government to include members of Hezbollah, who launched an attack against Israel the following year resulting in a war which saw 81 people dead. Previously, during his time as the country's finance minister, Siniora was dubbed a US puppet by his opposition.

Down the road from Siniora is another controversial chief, Benjamin Netanyahu, who holds a degree in Management from the MIT Sloan School of Management. The prime minister of Israel is known for his hard line stance on the country's conflict with Palestine. His rigid diplomacy has caused fiery controversies with the US government, leading a former White House spokesperson to call Netanyahu: “One of the most obnoxious individuals you're going to come into – just a liar and a cheat.”

Lawyers-turned-heads of government include those of France, Italy, Spain, the Netherlands, Russia, Mongolia, the US, Mexico and Somalia. Some exceptions include Germany (physics and quantum chemistry), Syria (ophthalmology), China (geo-mechanics) and Brazil, whose Lula da Silva quit school after fourth grade to earn cash as a shoe shiner.

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