What Fails Top MBA Leadership Development?

What Fails Top MBA Leadership Development?

–Executive Summary of What Stops Leaders from Good to Great

Many leaders desire to take their leadership from good to great, become a Level 5 leader, but have failed.   Various sources pointed out that top MBA leadership development programs do not make leaders.   Some suggestions are the exact causes.   For example, should the world change so leaders can utilize their new skills or should leaders learn how to manage conflict wisely and change the world?   The fundamental cause is partial approaches and chasing secondary behaviors.


Leadership development is critical to personal and business success.  Because of our expertise in handling setbacks and failures, some industrial leaders think of The Prince Synergy Level 5 leadership programs after they get into hot water, which let us watch many leaders rise and fall.  We have also done our studies.  In general, there are 6 leading causes, 5 of which are beyond the reach of IQ, EQ and behavior tools that top MBA and other firms provide.

1. Miss the Big Picture
Without being able to Vision the right direction, leadership is no more than the “people skills” at other levels.  Not knowing self is the first challenge.   In addition, it can be very challenging to keep keen industrial insights as disruptions and alternatives can emerge from any direction.  Leaders’ knowledge base, values, and concepts can all play a role.

Most people know industrial insights and miss the other one—the health of the Ego.   Individuals with an unhealthy Ego may be able to see facts but choose to act contrary to satisfy their Ego. They can be eager to tell the world how smart they are, which are not good to their image.  Behaviors here are mainly secondary; therefore, behavior modification can be painful and slow.  On the contrary, a healthy Ego can make many negative behaviors go away easily.

In addition, strategy, innovation and culture matter.  For example, the Eastern Culture builds a broad knowledge foundation that Western Culture fails to do.  Subsequently, Western leaders may not pick up new trends as fast as Eastern can.   from PwC CEO Study to How to Go from Good to Great Efficiently will give you more information.

2. Self-Destruction
Some human nature can be self-destructive, for example, over-credit self.  When the Ego is inflated by successes, the self-destruction often blow.  For example, they step out of their circle of competence and make unwise investments.   They can refuse new ideas and abuse others.   They can start to abuse others to satisfy their Ego.  Can a pioneer in innovation be immune to self-destruction?  No.

Mr.  C is a pioneer in innovation who shared a lot with us, such as creative confidence, think design, project learning, playing hard, creativity and interest in human development, etc.   We take far more steps in innovation than he does, but he names his items beautifully, and people know his work far better than ours.   I love to meet the people with the talent that I do not and made appointment through his secretary.

Because of unexpected traffic and the lengthy discussion of the person ahead of me, I only had a few minutes with him.   We planned to Skype the next week since he needed to attend his faculty meeting at 11 am and had all the time the next week.  But I only received an email from him, saying he needed to take his vacation the next week.

3. General Leadership Development Needs

Many executives  cannot be highly effective with their work and life.  One major reason is that they only know some IQ and EQ, a part  of their system, and cannot plan right and plan ahead.

Like Dominic Barton, the Global Managing Director at McKinsey, said, it is challenging to task talents and allow them grow from mistakes and failures, and handle setbacks and failures.  The fundamental cause is lack of knowledge of the other half of human system, so leaders have to use their gut feeling.

Conflict management is inevitable to leaders as strategic shift and structural change are inevitable.   Most people would think of leadership styles, skills or EQ when addressing conflict management.  In fact, conflict management also involves vision, structure design, rule creation, organizational balance and more.   Without the right tools and strategies, conflicts can consume leaders even if they have no self-destruction.

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4. External Challenges and New Development Needs
Leaders regularly face new challenges — technology disruptions, economic change, politics, cyber insecurity, etc.  It is hard for a leader to pick up new trends without a broad knowledge foundation that the Western Culture fails to provide.   It can also be equally hard for a leader to choose the new focus without creativity and independence that the Eastern Culture does not encourage.   Some leaders may need to stay updated with continuous learning.  Others may need to update internal concept is critical, or failures will be inevitable.

Unfavorable changes, injustice and other challenges can also disable Leaders when new development needs are out of their current circle of competency.  Then their determination, approach and resources become critical.

5. Be Vulnerable in Setbacks and Failures
Regardless the reasons of decline, great leaders can stop achieving and early successors can  crash if they cannot handle setbacks and failures.  Setbacks and failures not only can shut down the human mind and body when they are needed the most, but also come with the worst stress that lead to series of health issues.  In fact, people need resilience every day for their problem solving, negotiation, customer service, new projects, innovation, etc.

However, many leaders are lack of the training.  Some leaders can give up because of a few bad quarters or some conflicts with the board.   A number of leaders cannot take different perspectives.   More are afraid to take necessary action to turn things around.   All of these can minimized if they know themselves deeper and build the capacity needed ahead of time.

6. Lack of A Big Dream or Motivation
Many people do not step forward although they have the other elements of Level 5 simply because they do not have a big dream or sufficient motivation.  It can take a thunder to wake up some sleeping tigers, for example, Anne Mulcahy who has turned Xerox around.   She never expected to become CEO.  The world may never know her power had Xerox not been in a deep trouble.

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1. Partial IQ and EQ Approaches
Looking back, IQ had been over estimated in leadership development until Daniel Goleman brought in EQ.  However, EQ can be very vulnerable under changes and storm.  Michael Porter strengthened IQ with strategy and competitiveness.   Lominger expanded IQ and EQ with breadth of experience, operation, and motivation, and add Learning Q.  Peter Drucker perfected management.  However, they offer no anticipation and solution if leaders crash in setbacks and failures or lose health due to work stress.  Unfortunately, the latter two can happen daily.

Jim Collins defines 5 levels of leadership within the 3Q.  University leadership development mainly offer industrial insights (IQ) and people skills or EQ training.  Some use family and friends to balance their human nature, which is like to have the 360-degree evaluation but in a safe environment —catch the symptoms, but not all the causes and potential issues.

However, leaders often faces complex issues that involve the whole 6Q system.    It is impossible to know the root cause(s) without knowing ALL associated facts.  Subsequently, it is impossible to achieve fast and lasting results in leadership development, not to mention to build a Level 5 leader.  I first invented the 6Q Whole System Approach at clinics when I was helping patients beat setbacks and failures and stay healthy.  Many got well the same day.

2. Secondary Behavior Approach
Many institutions try to link every behavior with a motivation.  In fact, many behaviors mainly reflect underlying the 6Q structural changes that are due to environment changes instead of making the structural changes.  Thus, Behavior approach cannot solve complex issues.   For example, would President Franklin Roosevelt have the same behaviors if he had to run Marathon?  Changing his behaviors would not solve his problems.   All he needed was to bow out gracefully, which he did and became one great US Presidents in the history.

The 360 degree evaluation can collect behavior observation but not the causes and potential issues beneath the observation.

3. Self-assessments
Most top MBA leadership development programs start and end with student self-assessment, which is good.  However, self-assessment usually cannot fully evaluate individuals’ underlying 6Q structure and choose the right tools and the best shot.  As a result, the students and schools cannot use their time and resources efficiently.


Leaders ought to focus the big picture, optimize their leadership efficiency at personal, interpersonal and institutional levels, and be ready for changes and disruptions.   Although they can fail for various reasons, most leaders can rise again and become greater leaders, including Level 5, leaders if they can face reality and use the right tools.   Otherwise, their today’s glory will not last.  Thus, it is unwise define the difference between good leaders and great ones with their today’s force and direction.   We can excel leadership development through the following steps.

1. Focus on the big picture, Identify the Development Needs of a Leader, and Take Early Action

Efficient leadership development starts with the 6Q whole system evaluation, getting to the root cause(s) and exploring the best solutions.  A leader’s internal structure usually remains the same unless significant challenges happened, which is why we can catch the development needs of a leader long before the 360 degree and enable leaders take early action.  The same principles also help to choose the right people in changes. minimize damage control, and save time and money to achieve their goals.

2. Make Leadership Development Easy
Leadership development does not have to be a big and painful project.  For example, we can take away many negative behaviors easily by restoring the health of a leader’s Ego.   We can also personalize learning and choose the best spot(s), for example, “Can He Handle the Job?” where we eliminated 1 crisis out of 2 through 1 30-minute learning, so a person could handle the job and not to resign.

3. Empower Leaders Systemically with the Right Tools
Leaders can have development needs at personal, interpersonal and organizational levels, for example vision, knowledge, strategy, innovation, motivation, resilience, health, leadership style, conflict management, business development, customer service, talent management, policy making, etc.  Each requires different tools.  It is important to locate their needs precisely and target issues with the right tools instead of IQ, EQ and behavior tools alone.

4. Integrate Learning with Practices
Classroom learning does not always bring good practices.  At The Prince Synergy, we also offer group practice, catch additional development needs during practice to maximize learning results.

5. Anticipate the Next Development Needs and Be Proactive
As new challenges emerge every day, it is important that leaders can see their new development needs and act accordingly.   The Prince Synergy also helps to anticipate the new development needs and advise efficient solutions since the 6Q whole system data is valid for two years in the absence of significant events.  Of course, many of these can be done before the next 360 degree.

I enjoy seeing others at their best, which motivated me to invent the 6Q Whole System Approach at clinics.  At The Prince Synergy, we empower leaders with their missing tools and optimize leadership efficiency systemically.  You can find more “how to” in the book What Stops Leaders from Good to Great.  Most successful cases in the book were “intractable” to piecemeal approaches.  With the right tools, many leaders can take their leadership from good to great and become a Level 5 leader.

The more great leaders are out there, especially Level 5 leaders, the more people can enjoy prosperity, the better the world will be.   That is how I change the world for the better.  I hope you will join me.

About the Author
Bin Yang is the Managing Director of The Prince Synergy (www.theprincesynergy.com), a leading consulting firm that solves the hardest issues in leadership development and performance management that no one else can, and whose mission is to empower leaders and elites to strengthen society.  For more information or to schedule an interview, lecture, or appointment, please contact 310-668-1828.