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Teamwork and Leadership Skills are Key for MBA Students

MBA students are finding that skills in communications and confidence are essential to their success in the business world.

Indeed, a growing number of employers agree that it is communication, leadership, teamwork, and other so-called soft skills that truly distinguish M.B.A. candidates today. According to a 2006 survey by the Graduate Management Admission Council, nearly two fifths of employers say these are extremely important in selection and hiring. "The globalization of business requires companies to operate across a wider degree of diversity when it comes to clients, shareholders, and employees," says John Costas, chairman and CEO of Dillon Read Capital Management, a hedge fund in Stamford, Conn. "That's where things like leadership, being a team player, empathy, and excellent communication come into play." This is especially true over the course of a career, he notes, as executives take on general management responsibilities.

Business schools are responding with offerings on topics like ethics, negotiation and persuasion, business writing, and, yes, occasionally even the arts. Some are launching entire programs dedicated to soft skills. Starting next year, for example, all first-year students at Vanderbilt's Owen Graduate School of Management will participate in Learning to Lead, which will include personality assessments as well as executive coaching and voluntary activities such as military leadership simulations. At the University of Texas-Austin McCombs School of Business, all first-year students now pay $800 for the first two semesters of the extracurricular Plus program, which includes services like Coach-on-Call for help preparing a presentation, say, or advice about presentations and job-skills seminars.

Team building and leadership is now a part of general curriculum for most MBA Programs. Students who practice these skills will find the confidence to be a leader in their organization.


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