MBA Program…or Reality TV Show?

25 Jan

First day of spring classes and the discussion was on whether leaders are made or born.  I think we all know that the true answer is a bit of both. Some people are born with a natural ability to lead, with charisma that causes people to follow them, with giftings that propel them into leadership roles. And leaders can be made.  The military takes ordinary men and churns out remarkable leaders. No one would take a leadership class if they thought the die was cast the moment they were born. We could create a “Leadership SAT” and assess all children to determine the best leader of the pack (What  a way to choose a President! But instead we assess their past failures and positions and “what they’ve made of themselves”. )

A more interesting question, and one that I feel like quite an expert on, is whether jerks are born or made.  And let’s not confuse a-hole behavior (the mild-mannered investment banker flipping out on a crowded bus because his Wall Street journal got crumpled, the drunken baseball fan punching a girl in the face because she laughed at a joke after a World Series loss, the pedestrian who decided to throw burning hot coffee in someone’s face for no apparent reason) with actually being one.

I present to you Exhibit A:  C Buckminster.  (Buckminster being his middle name, not sure why he volunteered this info…) C sat down a seat away from me in Leadership class.  He was a little loud, a little abrasive, but nothing exceptional. After the day I had yesterday, he wasn’t even in the ballpark of annoying.

Until 10 minutes later.  We were told to spend 15 minutes learning every name in the class.  However we chose to do that. Most of us took it as an excuse to mingle and network. I think C decided to treat it like his own personal speed dating session. He came over to a group of us girls, all from the same cohort, and said:

(My thoughts in parentheses…)

“Hi, I’m C. Sorry, I’m a little self-conscious because I’m missing a front tooth (Yes. you are. Recent accident?) I had a hockey accident in September (that’s a long time to be missing a front tooth!) and my girlfriend at the time (Ahh! Classic trolling move – make us aware you’ve had girlfriends, so you are clearly desirable, but then make sure they are referred to in past tense so we can think ‘Oh! It’s my lucky day! He’s single!’) said “That’s good! Now other girls will leave you alone!”  But the funny thing is, that girls are really attracted to hockey players and I’ve had more attention since missing the tooth!”

Stunned silence. A nervous cough. And we heard him moving to the next cluster with his remarkable “missing a tooth improved my love life” story. Hey, if it works for him…

Fast forward an hour. The professor asks us to decide if we agree more with the statement “Leaders are born” or “Leaders are made” and sends the Borns to the hallway.  Us “Mades” are asked to prepare a 5 statement argument. We begin the task in earnest. For about 2 minutes before C interrupts.

“Hey guys! Why are we worrying about this exercise? We have a BIGGER issue! The professor is a JOKE! (This professor is rated higher than any other School of Management prof and 80% of the class is taking him for the 2nd or 3rd time.) I mean…he just told us he won’t be lecturing on leadership but facilitating discussion on the readings and on our personal reflection. He told us that Self Awareness is the first step, followed by Self Management (if you can’t manage yourself, can you manage others?) and Social Awareness, before we can truly lead. This is total BS. He also told us that his wife is a more natural leader than he is and that reflective papers are more important for the class material than graded exams. What are we going to do? We should bring him up to Upper Management! What a load of (insert lots of swear words here that should never be used on a middle-mannered Jewish professor you’ve known for 60 minutes).”

I was ready to bring him and his toothless-hockey-wonder-grin up to Upper Management! Instead, the professor walked back into the room and he got really quiet really quickly.

And that was that.

Err, not quite.  Two minutes later, he left the room.  For good.  Or so we thought. When the “Borns” were ushered back in with their 5 statement argument, we were surprised to see that C had been re-born as a “Born”.  In fact, he delivered the first argument (which didn’t go over so well.  I believe it was something on the lines of “We know that all leaders were born. Because all people are born.”  Duh.)

Ala Paul Harvey, the rest of the story is this…apparently he wrote down our “Made” arguments and brought them to the “Born” group saying “I’ve infiltrated the Mades and written down their argument!”

Dear C Buckminster, this is NOT Survivor.  This is not the Bachelorette.  This is not any sort of reality tv program. This is an MBA program made up of people working 40-80 hour work weeks and then giving up their evening hours to sit in a classroom and learn how to be better managers and more effective communicators.  I’m not sure you sold me on the fact that leaders are born. You did, however, convince me that there are a lot of jerks in the world. And I don’t really care if they were born or made, the fact that they exist at all gives me concern.

(Postscript: My boss left me a bunch of Jayson Werth Phillies baseball cards on my desk with a note thanking me for 10 things he knows I did this past week to “foster collaboration and improve integrity around the Lab even though none of them are part of my job description.”  So I’m still thinking that the good people of the world outweigh the jerks.  Let’s make sure the balance stays that way.)

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One Response to “MBA Program…or Reality TV Show?”

  1. Meg January 29, 2011 at 1:11 am #

    You cannot change a jerk. Really, outside of an act of God and even then…God *likes* jerks, He uses them for His kingdom ALL THE TIME. The mind boggles. In any event, I think you should conspire to have a guy in your class (not you or C Buckminster will think you are hitting on him, b/c he is a jerk) call out, “What up, Bucky” the next time you are in class. !! That’s my idea. (I may not be a leader, but I like to think I can help instigate minor rebellions.)

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