False Advertising

June 15, 2010 at 1:27 pm Leave a comment

Today (June 15, 2010) I saw a full page advertisement in the Globe and Mail (Canada’s national newspaper as it calls itself) placed by Athabasca University which is an online university based in northern Alberta. The advertisement, in the Globe’s business section, had a lead off headline that shouted “Leaders” and then it listed the latest crop of its MBA graduates. The advertisement obviously was saying those lucky few who graduated with its coveted MBA were leaders. What bullshit! Someone with an MBA is no more of a leader than someone receiving a high school diploma. Indeed, some graduating high schoolers are more leaders than many holders of MBAs.

This blog is primarily about business and ethics. So what has Athabasca University and its advertisement to do with ethics? Plenty. First of all, not just Athabasca U puts such advertisements about its MBA graduates in the media. All of the major MBA programs in Canada do so. All of them equate holding an MBA with leadership and being a leader. This is, minimally, a lack of transparency on the part of these business training schools and, more often, an out and out lie. An MBA is just a piece of paper that says its holder has completed a number of courses in business. Period. It says nothing about the character of the holder of that diploma. It says nothing about the holder of that diploma having the abilities (vision, motivation, outwards focused, empathetic relational skills, etc) that are core to any leader. The graduates of MBA programs have surely read some articles, maybe even a book or two, on these abilities, chatted about them in class, done a case study or two on them; maybe if the MBA program is a co-op program the student has had the opportunity to observe a real leader in action. But having an MBA does not in any way mean you are a leader. It only means you have passed whatever courses the program (and paid the hefty fees that go with that program) has decided makes for a good theoretical business education. Leadership is theory and so can be studied. Being a leader however is not theoretical, it is the individual who has developed those leadership abilities through experience melded to a character that is focused on the well-being of the larger group (no self-serving, whats-in-it for me types need apply – oops, that covers the vast majority of business MBAs). To say, as Athabasca U has in its advertisement in the Globe, that its graduates are, ipso facto, leaders because they have received an MBA is logically a fallacy and a lie. What would be true is if the MBA factories would say their graduates have received a solid background in business theory and practices. And that’s all, folks.

Stop trying to con us. After all, almost all of the MBA factories emphasize how ethics is a key component of their training process. So practice what you preach.

Entry filed under: ethics. Tags: .

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June 2010

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