I have a two word answer to this question. Street smartness. That’s what they don’t teach in business school.
Business school taught me how to read balance sheets. But didn’t tell me how to motivate people to give off their best. Business school taught me how to structure the organization for maximum productivity. But not how to deal with a person who thinks her boss is a creep. Business school taught me how to create a good marketing strategy. But not how to sell it to a client who is insecure about his job.
Business schools tend to be very left brained. Very analytical. Very quantitative. Very structured. Which is a good thing because the Indian education system is not very good at teaching us to be analytical, quantitative or structured. The school system basically teaches us to learn by rote. The best business schools force you to unlearn that.
In the process, they tend to put the quantitative approach to a problem on a pedestal. Ignoring the qualitative and feel aspects of managing people. If management is both a science and an art, then business schools teach the science but ignore the art.
Life, unfortunately, is all about art. Success comes to those who learn to deal with people best. Those who learn to understand the fears and motivations that people have. Understand their joys & sorrows. The job of a leader is to inspire, provide direction and keep people motivated. Other professional skills are taken for granted.
One can argue that nobody can teach the art. That may be true, but where the business schools tend to make a mistake is to leave their students with a feeling that the art doesn’t really matter.I had to wait until my hair turned grey before I understood that the art does matter. Maybe I am just a slow learner.
This article was published in the Strategist supplement of Business Standard on June 12, 2007