4 Business Principles MBA Students Learn

An MBA learns many business standards and practices, like finance, accounting, marketing strategy, and operations, but MBA programs also teach business principles that are just as important. An ethical, responsible, and principled business succeeds and is essential to the community, and this doesn’t go unrecognized by business professors.

Every serious business publication, like Harvard Business Review, will discuss the need to conduct principled business. The highest profile failures and value destruction have always come from companies that fail to embrace strong principles and serve all of their stakeholders. Those company leaders might have had MBAs but obviously didn’t pay attention in class.

Here are some business principles you could expect to discuss in an MBA program.

Don’t Get Full of Yourself

The greatest business disasters and value destroyers have been committed by executives that loved the wealth and prestige and thought they could do no wrong. Not only do those companies often make tremendous mistakes, but thinking you’re doing everything often means many customers aren’t being served. The little, nimble, and humble players are happy to come in and snatch those customers up.

Most companies have a definitive lifespan. Of the original Dow Jones companies, only one exists (GE) and it is no longer listed on the Dow. All of the executives in GE under past CEO Jack Welch have gone on to destroy companies simply because they thought they were the best.

Create Value for All Stakeholders

In the 80s, Milton Friedman’s economic theories said that the only people corporations were responsible for were the shareholders, and it’s probably one of the worst theories in history for expanding company value.

MBA professors counter that theory with examples of companies that have valued employees and communities as much as they do their shareholders. They show students that the overall value created by stakeholder-conscious companies far outpaces those companies that only seek to reward shareholders. The most successful companies aren’t just financially successful but successful in fulfilling a social mission.

Lead With Integrity

Business leaders accomplish more and create more value for everyone when they lead by example, listen to the opinions of their employees, and inspire people. A leader needs to be willing to spend some time in the trenches learning what employees do and thanking them for their hard work. Such leaders inspire job satisfaction and increased understanding of the company, helping them better manage and lead.

In such classes, it is not uncommon to discuss leadership failures and watch discussions between leaders who hurt companies and those who made them great. Biographies and movies about leaders that inspired, lead with integrity, and got their hands dirty are common assignments in an MBA program.


Companies aren’t built or become great overnight; even the most innovative products must first be known in the marketplace. Patience keeps the company focused on long-term goals and adjusting as needed, which are essential for company success.

A patient leader also fosters long-term vision in their employees, setting everyone up for success. It’s not about how much money you make this quarter but the value the company creates over its lifetime.

Strong, patient leaders better understand customers, rebound from failures, and convey a true vision to investors.

An MBA is a primer for all business disciplines that create effective generalists and a program that instills business ethics and principles. Business professors have watched the mistakes of businesses of the past and know that instilling values makes the greatest success stories. No MBA class will ever praise the CEO that made millions from practices lacking in integrity.