Do MBAs make better CEOs?

Do MBAs make better CEOs?

MBAs make better CEOs

Business executives and managers reach their positions in the corporate world from differing backgrounds. Some business leaders rise through the ranks of their companies from entry-level positions, while others use skills learned in graduate school to garner executive positions. In the end, however, the best degree for CEO candidates is an MBA. MBA graduates build skills through classes, relationships with colleagues, and internships that accurately replicate real-world conditions. 

Aston University’s online MBA program brings exceptional business education from the United Kingdom to Canada. This program features courses on organizational strategy, systems design, and financial performance management that address major issues in the corporate world. The best performing CEOs in the world hold MBA degrees like the one offered by Aston University. The question of whether or not MBAs make better CEOs can be answered by considering the following factors. 

CEO backgrounds

For newcomers to the business world, there is a stereotypical background for a successful CEO that doesn’t match reality. The mythical CEO holds an Ivy League degree, aimed for the top from their first day of work, and did not deviate from that path. Research conducted by Harvard Business Review and LinkedIn reveals that CEOs are more complicated than this stereotype but usually possess business acumen acquired through schooling and experience. 

Harvard Business Review

Harvard Business Review published the findings of its 10-year CEO Genome Project in 2018. This report looked at the backgrounds of 17,000 high-level corporate executives around the world. CEOs interviewed as part of the CEO Genome Project possessed four common traits: bold adaptation, confronting conflict head-on, decisiveness, and reliability. Seventy percent of the executives interviewed by the project did not aspire to CEO positions until deep into their careers. 

Harvard Business Review also dispelled the myth of a clear career path by finding 45% of CEOs experienced at least one career change or professional hiccup. The Ivy League stereotype was also weakened by the finding that only 7 percent of CEOs graduated from these well-known universities. The best performing CEOs in the world have gotten started later in their careers and used their unique backgrounds to vault to the top of the corporate ladder. 


LinkedIn reviewed 12,000 CEO profiles on its site in 2018 to find patterns among professionals who seek these challenging positions. In this cohort, 72 percent of CEOs served as directors and executives within their companies for at least six years prior to achieving their current positions. Interestingly, 80 percent of the CEOs were hired from the outside rather than promoted from within. The average CEO studied by LinkedIn started their career as a consultant specializing in business development. This study determined that the most common CEO degrees were computer science, economics, and business. 

Both studies of the corporate leadership landscape show that future leaders often acquire skills later in their careers. Aston University’s online MBA program accommodates mid-career professionals by waiving undergraduate degree requirements for applicants with at least seven years of professional experience. This degree is ideal for aspiring executives who already know the basics of the business world and need boosts to reach new heights. 

Exploiting gaps in the marketplace

MBAs end up in executive suites because they have learned skills that are desirable at companies around the world. The Financial Times asked 70 employers what skills they needed as part of the 2018 FT MBA Skills Gap Survey.

More than half of survey respondents told the publication that interpersonal skills are in higher demand than technical skills. International firms need leaders who are gifted in leadership, teamwork, and the ability to work with diverse audiences. These soft skills can be difficult to find because they require a mixture of good education and an interest in constant improvement. The Financial Times also concluded that about half of the surveyed companies had difficulties finding professionals who balanced interpersonal and technical skills. 

Aston University emphasizes collaboration, teamwork, and professional networking through its online MBA program. Faculty members hold decades of experience in the business world and craft lessons to help graduates fill the interpersonal skills gap. The program’s concentrations include global business and organizational development specializations that rank among the best MBA concentrations for CEOs. Aston University also features courses in data-driven decision making and strategic planning that encourage the blend of skills necessary for future CEOs. 

CEO experiences in the global market

We can also look at the experiences of Canadian and global CEOs to understand the best degree for CEOs. Recent surveys from KPMG and Gartner reveal the challenges faced by CEOs that might be solved in the near future by MBA graduates. 


KPMG published a 2019 Canadian CEO Outlook with the subtitle “Agile or Irrelevant.” This report surveyed 1,300 CEOs around the world including 75 Canadian CEOs about their views of business leadership.  

Fifty-three percent of Canadian chief executives in the survey said they were hiring employees with cutting-edge skill sets despite growth concerns compared to 45 percent of global CEOs. KPMG found 69 percent of Canadian CEOs expressed interest in disrupting their industries, a dramatic drop from a 96 percent response rate in 2018. In contrast, 73 percent of Canadian respondents said they were ready to deal with disruption by competitors compared to 69 percent of global respondents. The survey also found 75 percent of the country’s CEO wanted an innovative culture that allowed errors compared to 84 percent of the world’s CEOs. 

KPMG’s findings show that Canadian corporate leaders are more concerned with risk than their global counterparts. The surveyed CEOs also want to identify talent and anticipate industrial changes to protect short-term investments. Aston University’s Online MBA courses in global business and finance help graduates balance short-term and future interests for their employers. 


An online MBA from Aston University also trains future CEOs to delve deeper into the world of digital commerce. Gartner’s 2019 CEO Survey sought feedback on current business concerns from 473 executives based in 32 countries. Eighty-two percent of the respondents said they initiated initiatives to increase digital engagement within their companies. The best performing CEOs in the world are coming to the conclusion that advanced technical skills are required to stay competitive in today’s business climate. 

Gartner also concluded that 49 percent of respondents said business and technology need to work in unison to create successful digital initiatives. Forty-seven percent of surveyed executives see digital initiatives as important methods of boosting productivity. The mixture of business acumen and digital know-how needed in today’s economy can be expedited with a forward-thinking MBA program.

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