Higher Education for Business

By Robert Aaron Gordon; James Edwin Howell | Go to book overview

chapter 5
THE QUALITIES NEEDED BY BUSINESS: THE EMPIRICAL EVIDENCE

IN Chapter 4 we suggested an array of kinds of knowledge and skills which are needed, or at least desirable, for the practice of business in virtually all its forms. Our conclusions were reached deductively from premises, derived from observation and reflection, regarding the nature of business operations. Now we turn to more empirical evidence. What do businessmen themselves say on this subject, and what conclusions regarding the qualities needed for success in business have been reached by other qualified observers?

Verified knowledge in this area is discouragingly slim. More than a decade ago, Robert Calkins, then dean of the School of Business at Columbia, was moved to say: "What qualifications make for competence in the careers for which we train? Frankly, I do not know, and I can think of no one who does. But it is high time we found out."1 The situation is not a great deal better today.

The evidence currently available is of several sorts. There are the personal views of individual businessmen, all highly subjective and to some extent contradictory. There is the experience of individual companies in using various procedures and criteria in evaluating, selecting, and promoting management personnel. And there are the studies made by psychologists, personnel experts, and others of the characteristics that are presumably correlated with successful executive or leadership performance.

There is a growing body of literature of this third type, out of which few generally accepted conclusions have as yet emerged.2 The work so

____________________
1
Objectives of Business Education, Harvard Business Review, XXV (Autumn, 1946), 49-50.
2
With a few exceptions, the schools of business administration have done relatively little in this field. Harvard has probably done more systematic work on the personal characteristics that make for success in business than any other business school, but some research in this area has also been going on at a few other schools.

-75-

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