The CJBS view: Dr Simon Learmount
Dr Simon Learmount is a lecturer in Corporate Governance and Director of the Cambridge MBA programme.
Can you 'make' a leader?
At the early stage of their careers people focus on a functional expertise or a skill – they’re a researcher, say, or an accountant, and that is their contribution to their organisation. But as they move up the ladder, successful people start organising and running things – their “expert” skills decrease and their soft skills increase. And as they go higher still, they develop conceptual skills – the ability to see the organisation as a whole, its role, where it sits in the market, what’s happening in the industry around the world. The next step is how to formalise, support and develop these conceptual skills. You could leave it to chance, or you can see it as an opportunity to evaluate your career and enhance your skills with a view to becoming more effective – which is what the MBA does.”
How can you improve soft skills?
Essentially we help students to develop the specific types of skills needed to become a leader – which means them letting go of the functional skills that have got them this far and focusing on the soft skills and in particular the conceptual skills leaders need to enable them to see the bigger picture. The MBA gets you to reflect – it gives you the confidence to downplay those skills that have helped you to get to this stage. It can be difficult to let go of them, but that is the difference in making an effective leader. You’re making choices about the different types of skills you use.
Does it work?
Absolutely. At CJBS you get the Cambridge approach to education. We’re a globally renowned institution across the world in a variety of disciplines – science, art, performing, writing, politics, space, earth sciences and so many more. The whole learning environment gives so much opportunity for people to think outside their disciplines, to think of the role of business in society and the purpose of economic development, for example.