Writing about Leadership:

by on July 29th, 2011

Last week we talked about how to approach the “Why get an MBA now?” question. Today we’re going to explore the leadership essay.

Most people who are applying to a top MBA program have at least one instance of leadership on their resume, and often more than one (even if they don’t realize it). In interviews, it’s not uncommon for a candidate to mention his or her leadership skills in response to a question about strengths. In short, “I’m a strong leader” are common words out of the mouth of an MBA applicant.

Then why is it that the leadership essay trips up so many applicants? The main reason for this is probably that leadership is a difficult concept to describe. So yes, it’s easy to say, “I’m a strong leader,” but what exactly does that mean? What have you done that merits such a lofty title? Would others agree with you?

Saying you’re a strong leader is a lot easier than showing that you can truly lead. And that is the point you need to get across in your MBA leadership essay. But how?

Let’s start at the very beginning, with a definition. A leader is somebody who moves other people to action. This person must be trustworthy, reliable, and consistent if he or she wishes to effectively inspire others to get a particular job done, to lay the groundwork out for a specific mission or project, or even to get them to adopt certain ideas or ideals.

Next, look at your experiences and think of cases in which you led people to action. An obvious example would be serving as team leader at your current job and producing the increased revenue at a lower expense faster than the speed of light. A less obvious example, though also impressive, would be acting as team captain of your college ultimate Frisbee team, or better yet, creating your university’s first ultimate Frisbee team. Can’t think of an example with the word “team” in it? That’s okay too – you may just need to think outside the box a bit. For example, organizing a fundraiser, planning a wedding, opening your own business, or taking an initiative in your church, ethnic group, or community could all be used as examples of experiences in which you stood up, took the reins, and encouraged the people around you to get moving…and to achieve great things or even just things that needed to happen.

Finally, think of (and then mention) ways in which your leadership skills will help you in the future. Do some of your goals require strong leadership skills? Are you going to take advantage of the school’s leadership development program? You do know that your target school has a leadership development program, don’t you? How do you see it helping you as you go through your Top Choice School and then enter your career?

Are you seeking more insight into the leadership question? Download Accepted’s free special report, Leadership in Admissions, now!

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