How an MBA can help you understand the different models of leadership

  • June 27, 2023
  • By Guest Blogger
  • 4 minute read

Ian Freshwater, MBA 2022, wrote this for the Olin Blog. He is a human resources associate for FedEx Corporation.

An MBA can set you up for a successful career in any industry. An MBA from Washington University’s Olin Business School will equip you to build not only a successful career but also an impactful career as a leader.

From learning the importance of perspective to understanding different organizational structures and leadership styles in business, earning my MBA from Olin Business School set me up to navigate my career with ease and adaptability. As you are considering earning an MBA, here are a few ways I’ve found that WashU Olin will equip you with the tools and knowledge to build a future of impact.

Adjusting your point of view: The power of perspective

One of the most significant advantages of pursuing an MBA is the opportunity it offers you to take a step back from the working world and view business and organizational structures from an outside, objective perspective. During my time at Olin, I was surrounded by professionally driven and diverse classmates, which provided the perfect mix of experience and opinions to help me best understand how leadership theories could be implemented.

In the corporate setting, it’s easy to get caught up in organizational politics and the standard routine of how things get done. My MBA allowed me to take a step back and understand the actual theory behind these models. With this background, I could bring this theory into the working world, which has allowed me to adapt my approach based on how well a given leadership style is working.

Mastering adaptability: Navigating different organizational structures and leadership styles

Large corporations often have multiple organizational structures built into their culture and operating procedures. For example, in my current company, FedEx, we operate on a divisional or multidivisional structure. But my HR department follows a more team-based structure. To successfully navigate, I had to learn to adapt my leadership style to reflect both types of structures based on the stakeholders and teams I was working with.

What sets Olin apart is how they introduce business theories and then challenge you to put them into practice and learn the skills to innovate and drive change in the world around you. With programs like the Skandalaris Center or Koch Center for Family Business, you can collaborate with entrepreneurs and professionals with diverse experiences and expertise, inspiring the entrepreneurial mindset and empowering you to explore and execute solutions to global challenges as well as local needs.

Through working on different team projects in the classroom or consulting with clients through the Skandalaris Center or Koch Center for Family Business, I was introduced to and learned through practical experience the various organizational structures and leadership styles that allowed me to become well-attuned to business theories in practice. For example, I might use a participative leadership approach when working with only HR people. In contrast, if I’m on a team with people from multiple departments or even executive leadership, I can expect a more authoritative or delegative approach. Therefore, understanding how different leadership styles can be used, combined or adapted is key to navigating organizational structures.

Expanding horizons: The global immersion MBA experience

Olin’s MBA program offers a global immersion experience. This component will challenge you to move outside of your comfort zones by placing you in entirely new environments. As a result, you will learn how to adapt not only to the cultural norms but also how exactly those cultural norms affect business decisions and outcomes.

As someone born and raised in the US, I had fallen into the habit of routine and often forgot to look at structures and styles from an objective, third-party point of view. Immersing myself in a different culture placed me in that third-party position, helping me gain a broader, more profound understanding of how various leadership styles and organizational structures work.

An MBA from Washington University’s Olin Business School goes beyond merely laying the foundation for a successful career: It’s an immersive, transformative experience that equips you with invaluable insights and practical knowledge. You’ll engage with diverse classmates, faculty, and industry professionals, enabling you to become an adaptive, impactful leader who can excel in any environment.

By delving into various leadership styles in business, understanding types of business organizational structures and participating in the Global Immersion MBA program, you will develop a well-rounded perspective on what it means to be an effective leader. The school’s hands-on opportunities allow you to apply the theories you’ve learned in real-world situations, building your confidence and competence as a leader.

I encourage you to explore the transformative potential of an Olin education in shaping your future of impact. The skills, knowledge and experiences you will gain at Olin Business School will set you up for career success. They also will enable you to make a lasting, positive difference in the organizations and communities you will be part of.

About the Author

Guest Blogger

Guest Blogger

From time to time we have professors, students, staff, alumni, or friends who are not regular contributors, but want to share something with the community. Be sure to look at the bottom of the post to see the author.

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