Which degree will prepare you for leadership?

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If you are going out to hire from the campus, pick up a few people who have degrees in Humanities. You may be pleasantly surprised by their ability to collaborate and work in teams.

What should the CEO do if he powered his laptop in office and found a ransomware note on screen? He has to pay up a whopping amount in Bitcoins or else all data would be irretrievably wiped clean in 48 hours from every computer the business has. Soon, he finds himself negotiating with a bunch of hackers in some undisclosed location. No business school would have prepared the CEO for this scenario. But the clock is ticking.

If you are a leader in manufacturing, think of the impact of 3D printing on your business model. Or when your prized employee gets terminated on the grounds of harassment.

What we expect from a leader is very different now than what it was 10 years back. As the world gets more connected, the employees’ expectation of engaging with the leader has evolved. Employees expect leaders to communicate in real time. Sporadic all-hands meets where the leaders duck uncomfortable questions is no longer acceptable.

Questioning mental models

Leadership skills that work well in a structured, logical and homogenous world simply break down when it comes to dealing with a volatile and ambiguity laden world. It is time to question our assumptions and beliefs that make up our world.

One of the most important mental models to question will be our assumptions around talent. Organisations still go to the premier B-Schools to hire potential leaders. MBAs spend time honing their business skills and financial chops. Several business school graduates are strong in execution and learn to influence others. Many of them join startups or build one of their own after completing business education.

As automation and artificial intelligence changes the business landscape, leaders need to inspire others. They need to build compelling communication skills. The ability to navigate unstructured environments, engage others with their vision is becoming a more important skill than what is understood as “left brain” skills that depend on logic and analysis. The machines are taking over these tasks.

Try out Humanities graduates

Humanities students learn to explore human interactions by using analysis, critical thinking, and unstructured discussions. They learn to tease out the relevant from the irrelevant in a mass of unstructured conversations.

It is no wonder that students of Humanities turn out to be better communicators because of their multi-disciplinary lens. They develop the ability to inspire others with their vision and drive results. That is what research by DDI shows.

Humanities graduates struggled with business savvy and financial acumen but outperformed other degrees in many skills, and did so through strengths not only in interpersonal competencies (such as influence), but also in strong performance in result orientation and entrepreneurship. Many humanities programmes incorporate debating, communicating, and critical thinking, which would contribute to well-rounded graduates in these fields.

Business education seems to leave gaps in skills that demand human interaction and working across geographies and diverse groups. The entrance examination of a B-School is such that it is hard for a non-engineer to compete. Hardly any Humanities graduates can make it past the entrance examination that is tilted in favour of quantitative skills.

It comes as no surprise that many of us struggle in the workplace to influence colleagues who do not report to us. Or to work with the matrix structures where power lines are fuzzy and influence lines matter.

If you are going out to hire from the campus, pick up a few who have degrees in Humanities. You may be pleasantly surprised by their ability to collaborate and work in teams. They will surprise you with their skills in storytelling. Go ahead. Give it a shot.

(Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of YourStory.)