The Tuesday Q&A: Is Leadership Experience Important?

by on September 4th, 2012

Question:

Why is leadership experience so important in my MBA application?

Answer:

I looooooooove this question, mostly because it addresses one of the cornerstone’s of our company’s philosophy. ALWAYS emphasize leadership, in all aspects of your profile. Now, you’re asking why? Fair enough. Let’s talk leadership.

Leadership is actually KEY in all applications at all levels of education and employment, not just for bschool. Why? Well, because everybody wants leaders. Leaders are sexy. Leadership means drive, focus, confidence, power, and progress. It shows development, promotion, and success. That’s why it applies to every career. As you get promoted, you will become a leader—whether you’re a teacher, accountant, or business guy.

In business, though, it’s even MORE important. Obvious, right? I mean, you’re trying to earn a Master of Business Administration, which basically means “business leadership.” Of course leadership experience is important, because the entire structure of business organizations is hyper-businessy. You know what I mean? Chances to “lead” happen more quickly, and there are more of them when you’re in the business world. A principal of a school might lead 200 people, a CEO of Coca-Cola…20,000. But the basic premise is the same. As you get promoted, you will lead.

Leadership in business also maps to money, and therefore to prestige of the school. Mangers make lots of money, but CEOs make LOADS more. If you’re good at leadership, you’ll ascend the ranks more quickly, and therefore make more cash. If a school can say one of their graduates is making $3 million a year as a CEO, that reflects PROFOUNDLY on the school’s reputation, which increases admissions, which expands the school, etc, etc.

So, why do you need leadership experience in your app? Because bschools want PROVEN leaders. If you’ve never managed or run anything before, how does the adcom know that you will be a successful leader after you graduate? The adcom wants to see a clear leadership arc in your application: upward mobility, increased responsibility, larger teams under you, etc.

What if you’ve never been a proper “manager” in your career before bschool? Well, chances are that you’ve run SOMETHING even in your non-managerial role. Did your boss give you a project to run on your own? Did you ever supervise other staff members? Have you initiated interdepartmental jobs? These are the things that say “leadership” if you’ve got a lack of promotions or management positions in your career history. Just remember, leadership experience equals leadership potential equals the adcom loving you.

– Jon Frank

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