Bay Area MBA

How to use your MBA experience to become the boss you always wanted

By Eileen Jacob

People leave managers, not companies. However cliché that saying may be, it still holds true. If you have been in a management position before, you know becoming a strong leader is about more than perfecting the technical details of a job.

In fact, realizing you’re good at a skill like coding or project management, but recognizing you’re not quite as good at helping others develop those same skills, is precisely why many professionals go back to school in pursuit of an MBA: to work on the soft skills that help them become better leaders.

MBA programs give students space to learn and improve skills they may not flex during a typical, non-management day-to-day job. Below, we’ll explore the specific skills you’ll develop in business school that will empower you to become the boss you always wanted--before jumping into the demands of leadership.

1. Respect employee autonomy

Great leaders trust their teams and allow them to handle their jobs without micromanaging. Studies have proven that job autonomy has positive work outcomes:

  • Greater work satisfaction
  • Less intent to transfer
  • Fewer intentions to leave

By relinquishing some of the responsibility, leaders have more time and resources to devote to motivating team members, mentoring employees, and working on more significant business initiatives that result in further growth. To create a team that functions like a well-oiled machine, great leaders focus on:

  • Goal setting
  • Delegation
  • Time management
  • Staff assessments

Going through an MBA program touches on each of these management areas. For example, many MBA students juggle work, school, and family/social lives, which inherently requires effective time management. Students also work in group settings. Group projects range from typical coursework to more immersive initiatives like working in teams with top executives at major firms to conduct research and develop solutions for real-world business challenges. These initiatives require leaders to understand which team members are best suited for which project tasks, outline goals to ensure the project is completed on time, and delegate work so everything is accounted for.

2. Practice precise communication

Have you ever played the game telephone? In the game, players form a line, and the first player whispers a message into the ear of the second player. The second player whispers the same message to the third player, and so on. The last player of the game relays aloud the message they heard.

While it sounds simple, the final message in this game is often much different than the original. The game demonstrates how communication is easily lost, misinterpreted, or confused as messages are filtered through many people.

The principal of the game applies in a business setting because without crisp communication, it’s easy to:

  • Create confusion
  • Cause frustration
  • Misconstrue goals
  • Decrease employee engagement

As a leader, you must learn to clearly and succinctly articulate organizational goals, task requirements, and expectations. Throughout the Berkeley Haas MBA program, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to practice both verbal and non-verbal communication.

From pitch competitions, and the real-time feedback that accompanies your presentations, to strengthening your active listening during classroom discourse, you’ll learn how to reduce ambiguity with your verbal and written communication. You’ll develop the skills to convey a clear, concise message.

3. Strengthen decision-making abilities

Decisiveness is a valuable leadership skill for a number of reasons. It helps:

  • Move projects forward faster and more efficiently
  • Establish leadership credibility by demonstrating confidence
  • Eliminate frustration among team members who depend on your guidance

With strong decision-making capabilities, you exude confidence and efficiency, which is what an employee expects from someone leading the charge. An MBA helps you improve your decision-making abilities by focusing intensely on critical thinking--the tool business leaders use to arrive at the best decision possible, even when they don’t have all of the necessary information.

Throughout an MBA program, you’ll practice critical thinking as you debate and challenge the perspectives of your fellow students, and even your professors. By broadening your perspective and expanding your business knowledge, you’re training yourself to think quickly and strategically so you can make well-informed decisions with confidence.

4. Encourage excitement through innovation

It’s exciting to work with leaders who seek out nontraditional solutions to problems. Nonlinear thinking brings new solutions and perspectives to the workplace and allows your team to flex their creative minds. The invitation to pursue uncharted territory in the workplace opens doors to more productive collaboration, stronger engagement, and often, better results.

The Berkeley MBA program is designed for leaders who want to champion bold ideas while taking intelligent risks. An MBA program helps you fine-tune your analytical and cognitive flexibility skills, which helps you take calculated risks. You’ll also participate in innovation training, which improves your overall leadership acumen.

Specifically, programs offered through Berkeley’s applied innovation requirement like THNK School of Creative Leadership, Lean Launchpad, and the Startup Lab are real-world ways to practice marrying innovation with leadership.

5. Lead by example

Above all, a true leader leads by example. By applying for an MBA program, you’re already taking strides to improve yourself by exhibiting a suite of characteristics necessary in leadership:

  • Willingness to take action
  • Desire to work hard
  • Drive to beyond the tasks in your job description
  • Foresight for effective long-term planning
  • Ability to accept and applying feedback
  • Commitment to profession
  • Determination to further yourself professionally

An MBA program is your chance to practice your leadership skills and learn what leadership style suits you best. Earning your MBA teaches you how to become the best boss possible to your employees.

Are you ready to start down the path of leadership? Get started on your application to Berkeley today.

Learn more about the Full-Time MBA program

Posted on June 18, 2019
Themes: MBA Benefits
Eileen Jacob
Eileen was Senior Assistant Director of Admissions for the Berkeley MBA Programs for Working Professionals from 2017-2019. She enjoyed meeting prospective students and helping them explore the benefits of an MBA, and hopes these blog posts provide valuable insight into the Berkeley MBA experience.