to MBA Primer
Coleman Patterson, Ph.D.
of my favorite college teaching experiences occurred when I was given the opportunity to
venture out of the business school and head across campus to teach a course in the
schools recreation center. I was
allowed to teach a subject that I had become addicted to as a teenager and one in which I
had become an authority on through many years of learning, practicing, and playing. It was a beginning racquetball course in the
physical education department. Teaching
racquetball not only allowed me to share my sport with others, but also provided me with
one of my greatest ah ha moments in my own academic fieldleadership and
wrestling with the concepts of leadership and management education in a beginning
leadership course, the link between racquetball education and leadership education
appeared in my mind. It occurred to me that
learning organizational leadership is a lot like learning to play racquetball. As strange as that sounds, they have more in
common than one might first imagine. In fact,
on the first day of class in my Foundations of Leadership course, I routinely have my
students meet in one of the universitys racquetball courts. The students sit along one of the sidewalls toward
the back of the court and partly against the back wall.
twenty minutes, they are exposed to the philosophy of the game, the basic rules, and the
fundamental strategies of the game. Next,
they figure out through demonstration the best way to hit the ball in order to win a rally
as quickly as possible. I then show them the
proper swing mechanics for hitting forehand and backhand shots and then introduce them to
shot selection strategy. In those brief
moments on the court at the beginning of their leadership course, students learn what took
me years to figure out on my own through trial and error, wining and losing on the court,
and much practical experience combined with hours and hours of analysis and thinking.
brief lesson will not make any of the students proficient racquetball playersthat
takes many hours of purposeful practice using the rules, philosophy, skills, strategies of
the game, and countless games to perfect. The
brief lesson, however, does provide a launching and reference point for beginning their
study and participation in the sport. They
can progress in their games much faster than I did without some education in
the ways of the game.
the lesson, I debrief the students on the purpose of the meeting in the court and
receiving a racquetball lesson. As with
racquetball instruction, students of organizational leadership can advance their abilities
to effectively lead organizations by studying the rules, philosophies, and strategies of
the game. However, mastering the
rules, philosophies, and strategies of organizational leadership will not guarantee that
one will be good when the time comes to performthat comes through purposeful
practice and time spent reflecting on their performance in relation to the rules,
philosophies, and strategies of the game.
with racquetball or any other sport, some people come into the game with a set of traits
that allow them to perform well or not so well at the game from the first. For those people who are not naturally gifted at
the game, more time will need to be devoted to practice and development. It might be that those who are not naturals at the
game will never reach the performance of those who are naturals, but everyone can improve
their appreciation of the game, their understanding of the rules, philosophies, and
strategies of the game, learn how to identify and develop the skills needed for success in
the game, and how to critically evaluate performance and develop strategies for improving
weaknesses and taking advantage of strengths.
leadership is, like racquetball, a skill. A
skill, however, that is grounded in a body of theories, rules, philosophies, and
strategies. By studying what others have
thought and written about organizational leadership one can develop competencies more
quickly than simply learning them through years of experience. Your performance at the game ultimately requires
the student of the game to become the player of the gameand playing with the intent
of improving every time one plays.
Purpose of Book
I tell my business and leadership students that
technical skills will get them in the doors of their first employer, but leadership,
management, and business skills will help them beyond their first position. If youre good at what you do, you will
eventually be put in charge of others and make decisions for the organization is
what they are told and no matter what type of organization you end up working for,
all organizations are dependent on effective and efficient operation and providing an
output that is desired by someone outside the organization. All organizations are dependent on the functions
of business for survival. Organizational
leaders must know and understand the functions and fields of business in order to
effectively guide the organizations that have been entrusted to them.
ideas are the driving force behind the Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree
being one of the most popular graduate degrees earned in the United States. In recent decades, professionals from all career
fields have gone back to school to earn MBAs because they have promoted to positions in
their organizations where they have to make business decisionsdecisions that they
have not been trained to make through their undergraduate education and work experience.
ideas contained in this book are some of the rules and philosophies needed by college and
university leaders. The wonderful thing about
institutions of higher education is the diversity of expertise that the faculty brings to
their institutions. There is probably no
other organization where experts from such varied and diverse fields come together to work
under one roof for a common purpose. Foreign
languages, communication, literature, religion, mathematics, chemistry, biology, physics,
art, music, theater, history, criminal justice, and business are just some of the fields
commonly represented on college campuses. These
fields are all taught by people who received years of advanced educational study and
training in their particular specialtiesfor many, more than a decade of higher
This varied and diversified nature of
colleges and universities also requires that they be structured by academic disciplines
and sub-disciplines. Curriculum design and
assessment of professional and academic qualifications require that academic departments
be created to handle the specific and peculiar aspects of each discipline. Departments must have chairpersons to administer
the programs and to coordinate the work of the department with other departments. Typically, one of the senior or outstanding
faculty members takes on the required administrative responsibilitiesand has to make
business, managerial, and leadership decisions for the organization.
of a sudden, those people who spent a decade or more of their lives in higher education
becoming experts in foreign language, communication, literature, mathematics, religion,
chemistry, biology, physics, art, music, theater, history, and criminal justice are
responsible for playing a game in which they have been ill-trained and
equipped. They are good at what they do, so
they are put in charge of others who do something similarthey have become managers.
in large, complex organizations tend to have managers above themin higher education
they are deans, vice presidents, and presidents. In many instances, college and
university managers advance upward through the administrative ranks without formal
exposure or training to business, management, and leadershipbecause most rise
through the ranks from academic fields outside of business, administration, and
leadership. Proficiency can occur through
years of trial and error, winning and losing, and much practical experience combined with
hours and hours of analysis and thinking, however a better and more efficient way can be
an introduction and study into the business-related aspects of higher education, college
and university leaders, from department chairs to presidents, can help advance their
development and understanding of organizational leadership topics more quickly than they
can solely through experience. This book is
intended to provide a business-related analysis of issues affecting higher education and
the administration of academic programs and institutions.
as professionals from all types of job fields and occupations have gone back to school to
earn degrees in business administration, this book will take readers through an analysis
of issues from the various perspectives of an academic program in businessan MBA for
administrators and leaders in higher education, if you will.
management, leadership and ethics, organization theory, strategy, human resource
management, marketing, management information systems, finance, and accounting are the
subfields of business and the typical courses that one would take in an MBA program. The book is arranged by chapters addressing each
of these fieldswith particular emphasis placed on their relation and relevance to
institutions of higher education. While by no
means is this volume intended to be an exhaustive review of all of the topics within these
business fields, it is intended to provide an overview of some of the major ideas that are
directly relevant to leadership positions in colleges and universities.
the great diversity of our institutions of higher education, it is also unrealistic to
think that this analysis will be able to prescribe a set of solutions that are applicable
to all institutions and situations. A
different combination of issues, paradigms, problems, and solutions to organizational
issues exist across the spectrum of institution types; public and private, teaching and
research, big and small, church-related and secular.
The goal of this work is to present key ideas and principles, with
suggestions about how they can be useful to colleges and universities, which are common to
all types of organizations. The specific
application of these principles will require leaders and administrators to apply them
appropriately to their particular institutions.
and universities are also different from most for-profit businesses in many respects; in
terms of goals, professional orientation of members, type of work, involvement and
motivation of organizational members, and governance.
So many of the models and theories derived for and from for-profit
organizations will need to be modified, tweaked, and expanded to become truly useful for
higher education institutions. Comparing and
contrasting businesses and institutions of higher education, how they are similar and how
they are different, will add depth and richness to the principles described herein. We should gain a better perspective on the unique
nature of colleges and universities and how these concepts can enhance our understanding
of how to make our institutions more effective.
thing learned from my experiences teaching the racquetball class is that anyone of any
ability and playing level can benefit from instruction and education into the game. Getting back to the fundamentals of the game,
revisiting or learning rules and strategies that had not been realized before, and
analyzing ones performance in relation to the fundamental concepts and principles of
the game can help novices to professionals improve their understanding, philosophy, and
you progress through the chapters and topics in this book, some will be new and some may
look familiar and seem like things you have already processed and built into your
philosophies of organizational leadership. Either
way you are encouraged step back and evaluate how these concepts can benefit you in your
position and your institution.
Back to MBA Primer