An MBA is often considered a ticket to the top. Just look at Apple CEO Tim Cook and philanthropist Melinda Gates, both MBA graduates. Indeed, according to a survey by Study.EU, 32% of CEO’s worldwide hold an MBA degree.
For those studying an MBA, a leadership role often beckons. However, with great power comes great responsibility, and in an increasingly global world, responsible leadership is more important than ever.
This has been picked up by global ranking tables—the Financial Times Global MBA Ranking 2019 for the first time included a CSR metric in its evaluation of business schools, and Times Higher Education’s World University Rankings has begun showing how the global higher education sector is working towards 11 of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.
MBA students can therefore harness their commitment to responsible leadership during their degree and take it with them beyond graduation, as business schools around the world will be increasingly measured on their teaching of conscious, ethical management.
Students like Anthony Simmons, for example, an MBA (Executive) graduate from the Australian Graduate School of Management (AGSM) at the University of New South Wales.
From humble origins to a world summit delegate
Anthony’s early years were challenging, born to a teenage single parent, he grew up in a small American town, where he was exposed to racism for much of his life.
“Like many African Americans, I faced direct and indirect racism from childhood on,” he explains, “but it was the determination to succeed coupled with my faith in God which drove me to where I am now.”
During his bachelor and master’s degrees, Anthony worked practically full-time to supplement his studies, eventually receiving a Doctor of Jurisprudence degree and working in transport planning and mobility, before moving to Australia to and eventually complete completing an MBA at the Australian Graduate School of Management.
This culminated in his attendance at the MBA World Summit this year, hosted by AGSM, where he was chosen as one of the school’s delegates—there was a strong focus on responsible leadership and shared values. The Summit brings together MBA students from around the world, with a variety of upbringings and backgrounds, to discuss the world’s most pressing issues.
“[It] provides a forum that is a contained environment, where we can challenge each other and spur those around us to return home inspired, with a renewed vision and sense of purpose,” Anthony explains.
Activities such as ‘The Big Idea Lounge’, hosted at AGSM’s Michael Crouch innovation centre, connected entrepreneurial MBA students with fellow startup enthusiasts as well as venture capitalists (VCs). Students were given the opportunity to discuss current trends, share best-practices, and talk about potential business opportunities in the future.
Social Impact Day offered students the chance to dive deeper into the key issues facing our planet, and how to solve them.
“When people did the sessions, they were bringing with them their experiences, but they also made sure to get feedback and advice from attendees for taking the next steps,” Anthony says.
“Some of the most vigorous conversations that we had were involved in having to deal with operating businesses in the face of climate change and the impacts of one versus the other, what can we do, and what needs to change—that one carried on beyond the session,” he explains.
As the need for responsible leadership grows, events like the MBA World Summit help MBA students to develop their vision and build themselves as responsible leaders. For Anthony, his time both as a student at the Australian Graduate School of Management, and time at the Summit, have helped to further inspire him and others.
“We hear about all of these advancements, and how things are moving forward, but what about countries that don’t have any of these things that we take for granted, like a toilet that works, or flowing water,” he considers.
“Even in some parts of Australia and the US, there are still remote communities and people who are being left behind, what about them? All these advancements we are making are great, but they aren’t as great as they can be if people are being left behind.”
Anthony taps into the reason why there is now increased pressure on business schools to push responsible management, social impact, and sustainability into their MBA curricula–as a thread that weaves throughout the entire program.
It’s why business school rankings are being modified, and the idea of salary-first rankings will eventually become outdated. Though it will take time to arrive at the end point of this goal, the shift in the industry is clearly apparent, and some students, like Anthony, are already there.