Upping Your Leadership Game

by Evan Forster and David Thomas on

An excerpt from the best-selling book, The MBA Reality Check

Think you work too many hours to get involved in the world around you? First thing you need is an attitude adjustment.

Business schools are very interested in what kind of person you are, yet they’re very savvy to all the crap that comes out of smooth talkers’ mouths; they’re like the gal who’s been burned by too many silver-tongued douches. Extracurriculars are something you can actually do something about, something you have complete control over, and there’s no excuse to do poorly in this department. You need extracurriculars that are not one-offs, but constitute a true commitment to something greater than yourself.

I talk to people all the time who have the most amazing excuses:

“I’m in my first year at Houlihan and I’m working hundred-hour weeks!”

“My boss doesn’t let me. I don’t have any time off.”

“What little time off I have, I devote to staying in shape by going to the gym.”

“I just started working here. Everybody expects a lot of face time.”

“My mother’s alone, widowed, and depressed. I leave the city every weekend to go home and spend time with her.”

All of you are right. It’s not about lazy. None of you are lazy, and none of you are wrong.

QUIZ: Do You Suffer from the Wall Street Myth?

1. Is your gym card next to your ATM card?

2. Is American Idol a must-see (whether live or on DVR)?

3. Do you have a profile on Match.com? (JDate.com counts as well.)

4. Do you know what “bottle service” is?

5. Do you know when and where the sample sales are?

6. Do you plan your travel around circuit parties?

7. Do you see your parents more than twice a month?

8. Do you play golf recreationally?

9. Do you use Facebook or Twitter?

If you answered yes to any of these questions, then you have the time for extracurriculars—you just need to find the commitment. To get in touch with your inner community leader, perhaps you will find inspiration (and see some of yourself) in one of the following three profiles.

Candidate Profile 1: You are involved in an organization (such as one that tutors inner-city kids) once or twice a month. You are not in an organizational or leadership role, but you want to make a difference.

Consider doing what Rudy did: He recruited other mentors. The story starts before we met Rudy. In early 2002, with Forster-Thomas doing really well, Uncle David and I decided to practice what we preach. What better way to add to our twenty-five-hour days than through a small college-bound program within a larger organization called Chess-in-the-Schools (CIS)? CIS reaches twenty thousand inner-city youth at risk for, among many things, not staying in school and certainly not getting into college. Combining our expertise in college admissions, and our access to a pool of grad-school-bound twentysomethings eager to make a difference, we created what is now the Friday Night Mentor Program, whose purpose is to give low-income students who typically don’t venture past local city colleges access to select universities throughout the country. But we didn’t do it alone. In fact, we reached out to a number of our clients to see if we could find a group of people who could step in to become ten new Auntie Evans to mentor the CIS kids through the college application process.

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