More school was not my intent when I graduated from college in 1979. Yet as my career progressed people with graduate business degrees increasingly showed up in my life, my conversations and my decisions.
I was curious. How did MBA graduates view life? What did they know that I did not? What was the difference in how they looked at the world and their decision-making? How had these differences impacted our respective life-views?
In time I learned of an accelerated MBA program at a respected business school designed solely for experienced owner-operators. Admittance was experiential; no GMAT or other scores, just proof of career path. I was intrigued.
I braved-up and entered the program in 1994 with a class of 100 owner-operators from all over the world, evenly split by gender, broad age range, half international, half family businesses, varied lines of business and industry. We would spend the next three summers together.
Our first night the professors gathered and informed us of their intentions, “You already have an MBA but one only specific to your particular business. Therefore, our role is to expand upon what you already know so you attain what each of our traditional two-year MBA students possess, which is the intellectual language of business – the ability to analyze and discuss all businesses in precise analytical terms across all lines of business.”
And over the three years we became indistinguishable from MBA graduates with the aim of serving as reliable leaders and representatives of the school. That proposition still exists.
Sixteen years after that first night I went to an all-program reunion. I was curious to catch up with my classmates. At the reunion, the professors informed us that we, including our MBA cohorts, were no longer on par with recent MBA graduates. Uh-oh. What happened?
The missing link was emotional intelligence, or EQ – the essence of modern leadership, and now, a vital part of the curriculum. Emotional intelligence is the ability to take emotional risk in gaining connection, trust and collaboration. Like the universe, emotional intelligence, or EQ, has a self-expansive quality.
In contrast, intellectual intelligence, IQ, is fact-based knowledge, which tends toward elitism and exclusion, better suited to industrial and agrarian economies. Characteristics include self-obsession, rigid assumptions, behavioral and substance addiction, in addition to wealth, education, and trust gaps in the work place, home and society.
As a respected leadership school, we could no longer ignore the fallout resulting from outdated perspectives of rank, control and C-Suite entitlement, because we, including the school, have all played some role in creating these circumstances.
In order to progress a solution, the school launched peer-exchange-groups (PEGs), aka Forums, around the world wherein discreet groups of 8 to 12 people gather each month to share personal challenges and opportunities across all aspects of life – business, family, personal.
The Forum gestalt is listening powerfully and sharing first-person experience by a fine-tuned protocol without second-hand advice, ever. We strive to know each other as whole people. We explore taking and inviting emotional risk, addressing gaps, clearing misunderstandings completely, and engaging as whole people, as opposed to façades or how we perceive each other. We discover solutions and find possibilities where the conventional gets stuck.
Now I have been in a forum for three years. Our group is comprised of people I trust implicitly. We all went to the same school, some traditional MBAs, others not. In that respect we are non-distinguishable. Separately, we are of different backgrounds. We live differently, exist in different stages of life, pursue different professions, have different even disparate beliefs, and follow varied pursuits. We exhibit a variety of ambitions, successes, failures and challenges. But together we create a magic I have not seen elsewhere. More importantly, each aspect of forum expands into each aspect of our personal, family and business lives with an impact well beyond the evident.
Curiosity got me to business school. I thought I was on an intellectual path, but, no. I wasn’t. My learning is far different and much bigger than my assumptions.
The bargain of curiosity is the unknown. Life is about questions, not answers. Answers represent the past. Life and Leadership are disciplines of exploration.
How curious are you?