How to Identify Leadership in Your MBA Applications

Leadership is the most valued of MBA interpersonal skills. Sure teamwork, maturity and the million other skills admissions committees are looking for you to showcase are all important, but nothing signals MBA like those vaunted leadership skills. Everybody wants to highlight those pesky leadership skills, but does everybody have the ammunition to pull this off? The quick answer is, YES! Whether you know it or not every candidate from the most qualified to the least qualified usually has some leadership examples that can be crafted into a compelling essay.

So how do we start to identify and uncover these leadership experiences? Let’s look into some of the bigger experiential categories to find our leadership stories.

Academia

These are your formative years and tend to provide some nice coming of age leadership stories. You generally do not want to pull too many leadership stories prior to college because it may signal that you have not accomplished much recently, so try and keep things relatively current. 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. Look into the big and small of when you interacted with others and parse situations when you led. Teamwork and leadership go hand in hand so if the outright leadership examples don’t jump out to you then start with teamwork examples and leadership should follow.

Extra-Curricular

Another big area for leadership examples is with extra-curriculars. Have you had leadership responsibilities in a fraternity/sorority, athletics, or in a student club? Leadership stories from this category tend to really highlight interpersonal skills well particularly where challenging situations occur. This is a great area to mine essay responses for these types of questions. Also, these situations tend to be a bit more interesting because of how social in nature they are so don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through here.

Civic Obligations/ Volunteer

What organizations have you lead or influenced in or out of the workplace? This category is generally for post-undergraduate life and tends to illuminate personal passions for applicants. Do not be concerned if you weren’t the Executive Director of the non-profit or raised the most money for the Red Cross initiative it’s all about what role did you play and how your leadership skills factored in.

Work Experience

This is probably the most obvious and easiest area for candidates to highlight leadership. Remember just because you do not have formal leadership responsibilities does not mean leadership did not take place. Think of the project, products, and work streams you’ve led. 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.

Leadership can exist anywhere, canvas these categories in your personal narrative and find the examples that showcase you as the leader you will be on campus.

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Dozie A. is a Veritas Prep Head Consultant for the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University. His specialties include consulting, marketing, and low GPA/GMAT applicants.