Is An HBS Degree Enough?

by on September 28th, 2012

You’re an HBS student, which means you’re on the fast-track towards becoming powerful and successful, right? Not necessarily.

Since it’s founding in 1908, thousands of graduates have come out of HBS, but only a percentage (albeit an impressive one) have risen to the heights of being major world influencers.

In a recent blog post to HBR.org entitled “Why You Need Charisma,” HBS professor Rosabeth Kanter considers the importance of charisma and how it can be a decisive factor during decision making.

As an example, given the option of two presidential candidates, she asserts one should “choose the more charismatic candidate, all other things being roughly equal, because a leader that can charm us and lead us into a movement reflecting our better selves is also the most likely to use that appeal to get things done in a contentious political environment. Both Bill Clinton and Ronald Reagan had charisma in abundance. Leaders can hire for spreadsheet skills, but they can’t outsource relationship skills.”

What does this mean for HBS students with jobs on their mind? Quantitative skills are important, but are relationship skills equally, if not more, important? Is Charisma the it factor?

For their part, HBS students agree that it takes more than smarts to take their careers to the next level.

“If you’ve been accepted into an institution like Harvard, it’s safe to assume that you are smart, accomplished and ambitious – with a lot of promise,” suggests an RC.

So if smart, accomplished and ambitious is par for the course, why do some HBS students become one of TIME Magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in the World and others fall short of that (admittedly lofty) standard?

“Charisma is a big deal,” asserted another RC. “Whether someone is recruiting, interviewing, socializing or having a one-on-one conversation with a friend, the magical power that settles the crème de la crème atop the rest of us is how people deal with people, and the best tool when dealing with people is charisma. Lacking charisma could be fatal.”

Whether it’s charisma or another factor, students know that being a student at the top business school on the planet (yes U.S. News & World Report and América Economía ranked HBS the top business school in the world) still doesn’t guarantee they’ll sit atop the pantheon of the world’s billionaires, nor does it guarantee they’ll become POTUS someday.

So perhaps the important thing to maintain is perspective. Needless to say, there’s a long way between not being a billionaire or POTUS and being an abject failure.

“You’re here, so that makes you a promising candidate in the eyes of HBS, which usually means when you return to the public or private sector, you’ll have major impact,” reasoned one EC.

But if you’re one of those souls who cannot rest until you’ve made Baker Scholar, billions of dollars, or whatever else your heart desires, the consensus among students is that whether through charisma or sheer hard work, great success is available to those who seek it.

“Once you’ve reached this level there’s no question that everyone’s smart,” said one EC. “You have to set yourself apart by knowing what you want and leveraging every single resource at Harvard to make sure you get that done.”

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