A passport to the top of the business world

You don't have to have an MBA to be a CEO, but it clearly helps in so many ways, says Hilary Wilce

Do you need an MBA to be a good company chief? Argument about this has been raging around business circles in recent months. No, say business school critics, pointing to examples such as Steve Jobs, of Apple, and Terry Leahy, of Tesco. Yes, say MBA enthusiasts, pointing to Meg Whitman, formerly of eBay, and John Chambers, of Cisco Systems.

Research has done nothing to settle the fight. According to a recent analysis of top-ranking CEOs by the US pay consultancy Equilar, fewer than half the people in this position have an MBA, and only handful of these have an MBA from any sort of elite business school.

Equally, researchers at Pace University, in New York, found no relationship at all between a CEO's educational background and his or her company's performance.

However recent work done by INSEAD researchers has indicated that the long-term performance of CEOs who have MBAs outranks that of their colleagues who lack such a training, while other analysts point out that, with MBAs burgeoning from the 1980s onwards, many more of tomorrow's CEOs will have MBAs compared to the company leaders in post today...

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