Leading the Leaders

Professionals who hold a DBA are standing out in an MBA world.

In the spirit of Ralph Waldo Emerson, who advised us not to go where paths lead, but to create our own paths and leave trails, some business leaders are trailblazing with a new degree in hand—the Doctor of Business Administration. While not as recognized as the MBA yet, the DBA is arguably the business degree of the future.

Designed for experienced managers, professionals and educators who are employed in the business sector, nonprofits, government, military, healthcare, higher education and other organizations, Wilmington University’s DBA curriculum develops practical skills and higher-order thinking, as opposed to a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) degree, which places more emphasis on developing narrow, theoretical perspectives.

“There is a transition occurring in the field,” says Dr. Robert Rescigno, dean of the WilmU College of Business and director of the University’s DBA program. “One might say that the MBA is adequate to efficiently navigate through the world of business. But if we take a step back and examine the context of today’s business challenges, we gain a different perspective. Doctoral graduates have the depth and diversity to add to teams that are already largely composed of MBAs.”In other words, the DBA trains leaders to lead other leaders. “Doctoral students review challenges from a research base, ask thought-provoking questions, dig down to the ‘why,’ delve into the context, and have the ability to synthesize many ideas into a workable solution,” says Rescigno. Students explore a particular problem in their organizations and work to solve it. And

In other words, the DBA trains leaders to lead other leaders. “Doctoral students review challenges from a research base, ask thought-provoking questions, dig down to the ‘why,’ delve into the context, and have the ability to synthesize many ideas into a workable solution,” says Rescigno. Students explore a particular problem in their organizations and work to solve it. And learning to solve problems rather than theorize about them is the crux of the program.

Dr. Audrey Parajon, a WilmU DBA alumna and chair of the University’s Business Management program, agrees: “Conducting research using data and other evidence needed to express intelligent information, and the ability to effectively communicate information are just a few of the competencies that DBA graduates should be able to demonstrate.”

“The DBA curriculum changed my view on leadership. I believe it is the critical aspect of any organization,” says Dr. Rahman.

Managers may not all be leaders, but authentic leaders must be cognizant of procedures while understanding team dynamics and inspiring subordinates. After completing the program, Dr. Fathony Rahman, an assistant professor at Prasetiya Mulya Business School in Indonesia, saw leadership differently. “I used to base the success of a business on its products and market opportunities, and not so much on leadership,” he says. “The DBA curriculum changed my view on leadership. I believe it is the critical aspect of any organization. The ability to make good products and seize opportunities depends on the leader’s vision and mission. Leadership is not just about supervising and directing, it’s more about orchestrating different resources into a successful organization and business venture.”

Most DBA students, whose average age is 40, have careers they’d like to expand or change. “So their goals are very practical,” notes Rescigno. While the MBA has long been the advanced business degree of choice, particularly for recruiters, MBA programs were criticized initially for their lack of academic rigor, and even as late as the 1990s, were focused primarily on theory rather than practical application. Professors had little actual business experience. Their MBA students boasted analytical skills but lacked leadership training.

In contrast, DBA dissertation topics are related directly to students’ current careers or future career interests, and few dissertations present purely theoretical topics that don’t have practical applications. The business environment is growing increasingly complex, and the DBA fulfills the need that senior managers now have to attain more expert leadership and decision-making skills. The higher-level thinking goes well beyond that of the traditional MBA.

The relevance of visionary leadership is the fulcrum of WilmU’s DBA program. “In today’s world,” says Rescigno, “we are moving from the efficient (tactical) frame to the effective (strategic) frame. We stay ahead of our competition once we have established effective practice by examining our teams to be sure that we have the talent and skills to stay competitive in an ever-changing world.”

“This acceleration leads to conversations about leadership. Doctoral candidates are developing higher-level leadership skills. Certainly, managers are critical to the delivery of efficient, daily processes, and the business climate is dependent on the work of productive managers. But at some point, the climate of an organization and the daily efficiency will yield to its culture. This takes us to organizational strategic thinking and strong belief systems. The leaders of an organization must be the keepers of the belief system, their core values. They set the direction. They have the vision.”

 

Why the WilmU DBA?

The part-time program, available 100% online, caters to professionals who want to immediately apply their coursework to the workplace, but need flexible schedules that allow them to balance work-life and personal demands. For these professionals, WilmU’s online options, scheduling flexibility and affordability were paramount. Says Parajon: “With two children in college, I was concerned about taking on more debt. Wilmington University’s costs were so much more affordable than other institutions.”Dr. Gabrielle McClure-Nelson, has received two promotions since starting her DBA program. She now manages three audit offices of a major Department of Defense contractor. WilmU’s DBA curriculum directly influenced her beliefs “in the value of teaming, recognizing the value of differing opinions, and the need for a healthy organizational climate to accommodate divergent viewpoints,” she says.

Dr. Gabrielle McClure-Nelson, has received two promotions since starting her DBA program. She now manages three audit offices of a major Department of Defense contractor. WilmU’s DBA curriculum directly influenced her beliefs “in the value of teaming, recognizing the value of differing opinions, and the need for a healthy organizational climate to accommodate divergent viewpoints,” she says.

Dr. Guillermina Gonzalez, executive director of the Delaware Arts Alliance, quotes management guru Peter Drucker, who, in his book, “The Essential Drucker,” wrote that “management is doing things right; leadership is doing the right things.” The DBA program helped her detect and pursue the right things. In fact, Delaware Arts Alliance’s first strategic plan was crafted with the help of doctoral students as part of a class she was taking. “DAA can credit the DBA program for its initial strategic approach,” says Gonzalez.

Each graduate takes away something different from the program, but when asked how the DBA impacted their careers, they all say the same thing: It was a game changer.

To learn more, visit wilmu.edu/dba, or call (302) 356-2460.