Leadership and Education

The article “Make Your Leadership Case for B-School Admission” by Francesca Di Meglio cites leadership as a key factor in education.  The following is his advice about entering an MBA program.  According to Meglio, the business schools with the top MBA programs consider leadership “the key to getting your foot in the door.”  She writes that in order to determine if you are leader material, most admissions committees will be examining your application in search of certain characteristics, such as, “charisma, communicating well, handling difficult situations with grace, and working well in teams.”  Meglio lists six ways you can use to demonstrate leadership potential on a business school application.

(1) Recruit at Your Undergraduate Program – According to Meglio, most employers turn to their employees to find new talent for hiring.  You may have a hard time getting leadership opportunities at work, but you can take initiative by finding new talent at your undergraduate program.  She says to go back to your old school and recruit some good workers; not only does this allow you to improve your network and become a mentor, but it also keeps you in the loop for hiring.

(2) Take Charge at Home – You should think broadly about leadership.  Your examples can be family related things, like leading the family business, handling finances, or organizing the care of a sick family member.  You don’t want to brag, but you can still mention how you helped.  Then, you just have to explain how these skills will help you at graduate school and eventually in the workplace.

(3) Solve a Problem – Meglio gives an example of a student who became student government president at his university and reunited trafficked children from Nepal with their parents.  This is an amazing example, but you can solve smaller problems and still demonstrate leadership potential.  Consider your group projects.  Meglio states that many people discount team projects unless they are the official leader of the group.  Other members of the team usually resolve some kind of issue along the way.  You need to say what role you played in the group and how you contributed to the group.

(4) Launch an Organization or Business – This could mean actually launching a business, or just starting something like a club or a charitable work group.  This reveals your work ethic, and also shows that you are willing to “take action and execute a plan.”  Linda Meehan, executive director for admissions at Columbia Business School, says that it really doesn’t even matter if the business tanked, as long as you can say how you started it and what you learned from it.

(5) Be a Risk Taker – This means showing that you have an open-mind and are willing to take risks.  Kathryn Belleza, associate director of MBA admissions at Wharton, gives the example of an applicant from London who “jumped at the chance” to work for his company in Beijing.  This may have been out of his comfort zone, but he took a chance, and was successful.

(6) Project Your Future Leadership Achievements – The admissions committees at the top business schools want to know what you can bring to their community and how you can benefit the school.  One of the best ways to demonstrate your leadership potential is to tell the admissions people exactly how you would be involved; this includes programs that you would like to start, campus organizations you would like to join, and talents you would like to share with the members of the community.