Why Getting As In School Might Make You Less Capable of Running a Company

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Taylor Tobin1.84k
April 15, 2024 at 6:4PM UTC

Plenty of parents emphasize the necessity of earning straight A’s to their high-achieving children. They assume that an impeccable academic record will result in acceptance to a top-rate university, a well-paying job after graduation, and leadership opportunities as their careers develop and advance. 

While these qualities and characteristics can certainly coexist in the same person, studies show that straight A students aren’t necessarily the ones who make the strongest leaders in any given graduating class. In fact, it's the students who score B's who may be scientifically better suited to leadership.

A recent article by Inc. makes the case that students who earn B-average GPAs actually have the highest likelihood of rising to management and supervisory positions in their professional lives. While this belief directly contradicts the strongly held convictions of many a micromanaging parent, it may hold some value for anyone eager to separate the notions of academic success and professional advancement. 

To back this argument, Inc. cites a study performed by West Point showing that students who earned a B average proved more likely to ascend to the position of General than their A-student counterparts. The West Point researchers attributed this surprising development to the superior interpersonal skills honed by this group of B-students. Because these individuals didn't possess extraordinary academic abilities — or didn't place quite as much emphasis on exercising those abilities, at least — they instead had the opportunity to learn to communicate with others more and to gain other advantages through people-focused soft skills. This resourcefulness and personableness ultimately led them to be viewed as leadership material at a higher rate than students who zeroed in on academic achievement exclusively. 

While Inc. clearly states that they don’t want to discourage kids from earning A’s, as these top marks will still help during college searches and the university application process, the study is certainly an interesting example of the narrow way we tend to perceive intelligence and, therein, promises of success in this country. Even if you don’t thrive in academia, your social talents and determination can elevate you to high-paying and powerful positions, regardless of whether you graduated with a perfect 4.0 GPA. 

And if you stop to consider the types of managers you've worked under your career, chances are that Inc.'s position hardly surprises you. In terms of company leadership, a manager with finely-honed interpersonal abilities will typically prove more successful than a brilliant supervisor who doesn’t understand the importance of communicating with her reports. That’s encouraging news for B students... and if you’re a former A-student wishing to boost your leadership skills, try focusing on interpersonal connections and communication skills as your professional life progresses.


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