MBAs That Lead To The Lowest Debt

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt says his Harvard MBA years sometimes made him feel like a dummy.

General Electric CEO Jeff Immelt says his Harvard MBA years sometimes made him feel like a dummy.

Where CEOs Got Their MBAs


Someday, I’m going to be sitting on the other side of that desk. 

We’ve all thought it, especially after our pet project gets dumped or management makes that same stupid mistake. And the same words roll through our heads: “Short-sighted…out-of-touch…gutless.” That’s why many students ditch their jobs and trudge back to business school. Despite the cost and sacrifice, that MBA gives you credibility and flexibility to recruiters and leaders alike. It helps you build a network that reaches far beyond your company and industry. And those case studies and group projects teach you to think and act like an executive, as you experience those trade-offs, risks, and compromises inherent to keeping a company competitive and in the black.

Sure, most of your classmates will top off in upper middle management, running teams and projects until their age, salary, or company politics turn them into entrepreneurs and consultants (or professors).  Sometimes, a classmate or two do reach the pinnacle. They’ll become the one who sits behind that desk, surveying the landscape far-and-wide, painfully uncertain as they navigate through their company’s financial, operational, and cultural deficiencies.

So where did these CEOs graduate? This week, The Financial Times compiled a listing of the top 500 companies based on market capitalization. And they found that 29 percent of these companies were led by an MBA.  Here are the business schools that produced the highest number of chief executives:

School CEOs Leaders & Companies
Harvard Business School 25 Jeffrey Immelt (General Electric), Alan Lafley (Procter and Gamble), Jamie Dimon (J.P. Morgan Chase)
Stanford GSB 8 Mary Barra (General Motors), Ken Powell (General Mills), John Donahoe (eBay)
INSEAD 8 Andre Calantzopoulos (Philip Morris), Helge Lund (Stat Oil)
Columbia 6 James Gorman (Morgan Stanley), Cesar Alierta (Telefonica)
Penn (Wharton) 6 Alan Gorsky (Johnson & Johnson), John Bryant (Kellogg)
Northwestern (Kellogg) 6 Ellen Kullman (DuPont), Gregg Steinhafel (Target), W. Anthony Vernon (Kraft)
Chicago (Booth) 4 Brady Dougan (Credit Suisse), John Watson (Chevron)
Virginia (Darden) 3 John Strangfeld (Prudential)

As you can see, Harvard leads by a wide margin. In fact, you’d need to combine the CEO totals from Stanford, Columbia, Wharton, and Kellogg to exceed Harvard’s output. According to The Financial Times’ research, 46 percent of American-based companies in the Top 500 are led by MBAs, with the number dropping to 37 percent and 31 percent for Top 500 companies in the United Kingdom and Canada. And less than 10 percent of Top 500 companies based in France, Germany, and mainland China have MBAs at the helm.

Despite these tepid numbers, many experts view the MBA as indispensable to climbing the ladder. Ron Lumbra, managing director of executive search firm Russell Reynolds Associates, notes that aspiring leaders can differentiate themselves by attending an elite business school, noting that such a path is “tipping their hand to the market [about] their ambitions.” And Julia Tyler, who serves as executive vice president of the Graduate Management Admission Council, adds that an MBA enhances a candidate’s brand and shows that he or she is someone who is “willing to investment in [themselves].”

Besides the schools in the above table, there are plenty of others: Duke Fuqua’s Tim Cook at Apple, Indiana Kelley’s John Chambers at Cisco, Wisconsin’s David Lesar at Halliburton, Yale’s Indra Nooyi at PepsiCo, and Minnesota Carlson’s John Stumpf at Wells Fargo, to name a few.

Yes, maybe one member of a class makes it to the very, very top. But who says it won’t be you?

Source: Financial Times

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