Making the decision to invest in an MBA can be a tough one. It takes time and money and can ultimately help move you forward in your career. MBAs and degrees are often the price of admission for certain jobs. But will an MBA guarantee your success as a leader?
Personally, I don’t think an MBA is enough or is even required. I know that you can be successful without getting an MBA because I don’t have one.
However, I do believe there is one skill that can help you get ahead regardless of your degree: being an avid learner.
I believe being an avid learner differentiates good leaders from great ones, whether you have an MBA or not. I got promoted time and time again without one. Let me share an example with you.
When I was the head of marketing at Pepsi-Cola Company, I wanted to become chief operating officer — even though I had ZERO operations experience. I knew the chairman saw me as a fantastic marketer, but he was leery about me becoming a general manager. I also knew I needed to demonstrate operations ability before I would get promoted to a division president. This is why I sought the COO job. I went in knowing my biggest asset would be having the ability to learn from others and then use my power to help solve the biggest issues and exploit the biggest opportunities.
Given the confidence I gained through the years because I was an avid learner, I decided to ask the CEO for this job. I had a good working relationship with the CEO and I knew I wasn’t the obvious choice, so I made him a deal: Test me in this role, and if I don’t succeed, you can put me back in marketing or fire me. The CEO took a chance on me, and I knew it was time to become an avid learner of operations!
Being an avid learner made all the difference in my success as COO. As soon as I started, I knew I needed help, so I met with the people who really knew what they were doing. I met with route salesmen and asked them questions and listened to what they had to say. I went on sales calls and asked customers questions. I interviewed the workers in the bottling plant too, and all the asking and listening helped me discover the things that mattered and what fundamental processes needed to be changed.