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Leadership

How to Identify Leadership in Your MBA Applications

‘You can’t teach leadership. You’re either born with it or you’re not.’

Ever hear that one? Well, revered institutions from Wharton to the U.S. Marine Corps scoff at that notion. Regardless of which side you take, if you’re looking to enter business school, here’s one nugget to remember: Leadership can be measured.

In fact, leadership is a big part of what adcoms seek from candidates. And it comes in many forms: managing subordinates, spearheading initiatives, selling ideas, building coalitions, and maintaining self-control. In fact, such skills are the bedrock of successful careers. They reflect deeper traits like charisma, courage, strategic thinking, open-mindedness, and empathy. In the end, these are the transformative people who connect with people, launch companies, disrupt business models, and make a name for themselves (and their alma maters).

Alas, you can demonstrate leadership in your essays, interviews, and letters of recommendation. But what exactly are adcoms seeking? In a recent blog post by Veritas Prep, “Dozie A.”, a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management, shares some strategies for positioning yourself as a leader.

First, Dozie warns applicants not to discount their academic successes when it comes to leadership. He writes that, “Academia is a great place to uncover leadership stories because it is a very similar setting to what b-school will be like in the sense that you are surrounded by peers.” In Dozie’s experience, “teamwork and leadership go hand in hand.” As a result, you should scour your college years for examples of being able to unite people and raise their collective performance.

As you’d expect, extracurricular activities are another means to showcase leadership. In particular, participating in professional organizations reflect your commitment to professional development and helping others, whether you’re conducting presentations or orchestrating a dinner.  “Leadership stories from this category tend to really highlight interpersonal skills well particularly where challenging situations occur,” Dozie observes.

Volunteer and civil work is another outlet. Here, you can exhibit what you’re passionate about – and how you’re channeling it for the greater good. As Dozie notes, leadership doesn’t necessarily mean you ran the group. Most good leaders start out as good followers, so think about how you contributed to making the larger operation a success.

Finally, Dozie touts work experience as a differentiator. “Think of the project, products, and work streams you’ve led,” he writes. “These are the areas most candidates will thrive. Make sure to set the stakes in your examples so the reader knows how important this leadership example was for your career and the company as a whole.”

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Source: Veritas Prep