Are we losing leaders or managers ? an exploratory study of the propensity amongst MBA students of KwaZulu-Natal, as future skilled professionals, to emigrate and to ascertain the orientation - leadership or management - of the potential emigrant.
The brain-drain phenomenon was first reported in the 1960s in India, where skilled professionals were voluntarily leaving India to settle abroad in western countries. Thereafter, most developing countries have reported witnessing brain-drain in some form or the other. In South Mrica, with the advent of the post-apartheid government, the country saw a drastic change in its social fabric. The brain-drain phenomenon has gathered momentum since, and with every passing year, more and more people continue to emigrate from the country. With skill distribution already highly skewed to the emigrating white minority, the problem of emigration attains more serious proportions as more and more white South Mricans contemplate leaving their motherland. Owing to grey emigration it is very difficult to report the exact number of skilled South Mricans that have emigrated to Australia, UK, Western Europe, and the US, however, the best estimates indicate the number to be around 233 000. While many brand these emigrants as being 'unpatriotic', the phenomenon of emigration may be occurring because of valid reasons. While many whites may claim that with a non-white government in power, their and their country's future well-being could be in jeopardy and hence the desire to emigrate, such claims may not be baseless after all. Recent studies have shown that the rate of crime and violence are increasing, and that many of the emigrants have sighted concerns of safety as their primary reason for leaving. And it should be borne in mind that the phenomenon, which is perceived to be a 'white-only' phenomenon, has lost ground as many Asians and Africans have shown an equal desire to leave, predominantly due to concerns of personal safety. Studies, newspaper reports, and magazine articles, have shown that the country is losing valuable skills in the Information Technology sector, Finance and Banking sector and in the Medical Field. These three sectors play a vital role in the development of any developing economy and loss of valuable skills in these sectors evoke serious concerns. This skill loss, while a worrisome factor, stands to be compounded if more and more highly qualified professionals actually emigrate. The study on the emigration of Masters of Business Administration (MBA) students is scant and, knowing their demand in the market and the contributions that they make to the country's economy, their loss could well seal the fate of this country. MBA students contribute to a country's economy in several ways. Firstly, they are seen as the future business leaders of the country. Through knowledge gained in their business schools (Bschools), MBAs not only manage departments but are also known to lead organisations into a better future. They contribute to their respective organisations by streamlining work flow, ensuring that productivity per person is always on the up, surveying the market to introduce products that will improve the prospects of the company and thereby, bring about growth. In the process, they create jobs that aid in the betterment of the economy. Secondly, they are involved in exports of their products to countries that demand their goods, thereby bringing in the much-needed foreign exchange. Furthermore, when foreign countries decide to set up operations locally, they rely on the skills and talents of the MBAs to spearhead operations. Needless to mention, as these foreign companies grow they again create much-needed jobs that benefit the economy. MBAs also train fresh graduates to obtain the required exposure and experience as one day these very graduates will be spearheading their own projects. Many corporate heads are also assisting the government in developing the economic and commercial policies of the country. Many MBAs, entrepreneurial in nature, venture into business themselves. This entrepreneurial flair has added to the development of many small and medium enterprises. Today's fast-paced business environment and breakthrough technological developments have necessitated greater reliance on the MBA to make critical decisions that impact upon the future of the organisation and the lives of many employees. The MBAs of today are needed to be visionaries and to lead by example. They are entrusted with the onerous task of being agents of change, to be able to see the changing business horizons and make proper investments in skills, technology and other requirements for the benefit and survival of the organisation. Indeed it may seem a daunting task, but then the salaries they receive commensurate the requirements of the job. The contribution they make is invaluable and definitely their loss can have serious ramifications for the country. The purpose of this dissertation is to study the emigration phenomenon vis-a-vis the MBA students. Looking at a sample of MBAs that is representative of the Kwa-Zulu Natal MBA programmes, this research looks into ascertaining the emigration potential of MBA students. Furthering to that, the research probes into the management orientation and leadership orientation of these emigrants. The underlying assumption is that if the potential MBA emigrant has management orientation, then the loss for the country is not all that much, as compared to the potential emigrant having a leadership orientation. This is argued by the fact that it is much easier to take a mind and train it to run a department, as most managers do, than tryiIlcg to create a mind to lead. While it is still disputed whether leadership can totally be taught, one indisputable fact is that there are aspects that can be taught and those that cannot be taught. While one can be taught interpersonal skills, communications skills and other skills, there are certain traits intrinsic to leadership that just cannot be taught, e.g. risk taking, judgement and challenging the status quo. Some have even gone to state that leadership is a life-long learning process, and most leaders have had a difficult childhood that has led to their need to prove something to the world. It is for this reason that many authors have written that leaders are 'twice born.' Anyhow, the point is that, it is easier to teach someone to manage a department than it is to teach someone to run an organisation. The third part of the research looks at the view-point of the MBA students towards their institution's orientation, i.e. are their business schools preparing them to be managers or are they being prepared to be leaders. After all, if the business community needs leaders to take over the helm of companies, and if the need of the hour is students who can work under intense pressure trying to tie decision-making with the fast-paced technological developments, the ever increasing pace of competition and the intensity with which globalisation is affecting domestic markets, then the business schools need to produce that calibre ofMBA graduates. If the students feel that their business schools have only equipped them with managerial know-how, then these very business schools are being negligent in producing leaders and need to gear their faculties and curricula towards a greater leadershiporientation. This research will indicate whether the country needs to worry about the future of their corporations being in good hands, and whether emigration is really going to sap the remaining skills that the country's business sector needs desperately. It will also reveal if there is a leadership gap in the market that business schools need to address, i.e. a demand for MBAs with leadership orientation and an under-supply of such students coming out of the current business schools. This research could be an eye-opener for business schools to realise that they are falling short in providing quality products to the market. Gone are the days of yore when the market was forced to buy what organisations produced. In today's world, the choice empowered consumer (the business community at large) will seek the desired product of their choice (MBAs that are qualified with the required skills and competencies) and if they are unable to obtain it from the current suppliers (the recognised business schools they currently depend on), they will have no option but to look elsewhere. This could well be taken as a warning sign for business schools that if the very organisations that allow select business schools to have top rankings in the country, were to take away their support and start recognising and recruiting from other, at the moment, lesser recognised B-schools, the fate of the current Bschools could well be sealed. After all history is fraught with examples, and it is a well known fact that has received much attention from consultants, business school professors and management gurus, that if external change outpaces internal change, then only one future awaits such organisations, 'doom'!