Tag Archives | Michigan Ross MBA

Describing Leadership in MBA Essays When You’re Not the Boss

Leadership in MBA Essays

Ex-Marine Angie Morgan

The MBA essay questions are coming out, and students are already pondering how they can make themselves stand out and show leadership in MBA essays. It’s no secret that admissions readers want to read about an applicant’s personal leadership experience.

But what counts as leadership experience? And what if you’re not the boss?

Many students who are admitted to the best business schools aren’t the boss, but are leaders anyway.  That’s because leaders show themselves in many different ways.  Even in the Marines, for example.  Angie Morgan, a Michigan Ross MBA, spent eight years as a Marine, and in many cases throughout her career, she was not the senior person on the team.  But she learned how to show leadership by prioritizing the needs of others.  That is, by prioritizing the needs of the team.

In the video below, she explains that as an individual, even if you are not leading a project, or do not have direct reports, or are not in charge of an initiative, you can still help build a team among the colleagues around you.  “If you step up an serve those around you, you’re going to build that team.”

Every business school looks for emerging leaders; leaders who can influence outcomes and inspire others.  Harvard Business School’s mission is big and bold, “We edcuate leaders who make a difference in the world.”  But to be accepted into a program like Harvard, you have to make things happen, and if you think back on times when you have well served a team, that might very well be a great example of leadership.

I like to look at Stanford Graduate School of Business’s Leadership Behavior Grid of character traits and competencies.  Some of the categories that they are defining as leadership traits are “results orientation,” ” influence and collaboration,” ” developing others” “change leadership” and “trustworthiness.”  Read through the highest standard and you will see similar themes: it’s about serving others.  For example, they describe the gold standard for “influence and collaboration” as “builds enduring partnerships within and outside of organization to improve effectiveness, even at short-term personal cost.” 

Read through the grid and you will see that the military model of service to the team is a good place to start when thinking about how you can describe your own leadership patterns.  You don’t have to have a fancy title. You can lead by stepping in and making a diffierence, empowering others, or standing up for what you know is right.

More on leadership and the MBA:

Resilience as a Leadership Trait in MBA Admissions

How to Convey Leadership in MBA Essays and Interviews

On Failure and the MBA Essays

The Growth Mindset and the MBA Leadership Essays 

The Classic: Leadership and the MBA Application

5 Reasons to Visit B-schools RIGHT NOW!

MBA campus visit Tuck springI created this list for Poets and Quants, the premier MBA website. It was put on the front page a few days ago, and want to share these tips with all prospective MBA students. Here’s why you must not wait, but do what you can to do your MBA campus visit in the spring!

It’s spring. Trees are blooming, the cold weather is behind us, the cycle begins again. Same goes for MBA admissions, when the next class of prospective students starts thinking about applications. The resounding advice I hear from students who have successfully navigated the process is: Do. Your. Research. And that means that you should visit schools. When?

Spring.

If you can schedule a visit before classes are over, while the sun is shining, and when students know what’s what, you’ll get a much better idea of the school’s DNA.

Here are five reasons to get yourself on a plane sooner, rather than waiting until summer or fall.

1. THE WEATHER

Admit it, life is more pleasant for visitors in the spring than in the dead of winter. OK, Stanford and Berkeley are lovely most of the year, but the rest of the country? Not so much fun. Says one Booth second-year student, “For Chicago, the spring weather is a huge plus. The winter just makes everyone miserable.”

And who can forget Boston’s record 96 inches of snow this past winter?

2. CLASS IS IN SESSION

One of the best ways to understand an MBA program is to go when class is in session. You’ll feel a completely different vibe when a campus is filled with purposeful students. You want to sit in on a class, see what it’s all about, and get a feel for what it would be like to be a student yourself. And if you’ve never seen the case-study method in action, you don’t know what you’re missing.

You’ve got about a month left of classes for most MBA programs – for example, the last day of classes for both HBS and MIT Sloan is May 14. Stanford GSB and Kellogg, which are on the quarter system, run a little longer; last day of classes for Stanford is May 29, for Kellogg is May 30.

Students visiting one-year programs like INSEAD or programs like Columbia Business School need not worry; prospective students can see the school in action year-round. “With classes taking place over the summer, the J-term also offers prospective students an opportunity to sit in for a class and really experience what it would be like to be a Columbia Business School student,” says Amanda Carlson, assistant dean of MBA admissions at Columbia.” It’s these types of experiences that seem to have the greatest impact on prospective students.”

3. CURRENT STUDENTS KNOW WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT

In addition to class visits, you want to talk with real students to discern the realities of campus life. First year students are usually in a state of shock during fall term – they’re overwhelmed with courses, activities, recruiting, and FOMO, or fear of missing out. Second year students have figured out the lay of the land, but can be stressed by recruiting, which swings into full gear during autumn.

Spring is a different story. Jodi Innerfield, an admissions ambassador at Michigan’s Ross School of Business, notes, “Visiting schools in the spring gave me the opportunity to speak with first years as they reflected on year 1, and MBA2’s as they ventured off to their full-time jobs. In the spring, we’re all reflecting on our experiences and enjoying the nice weather, so it’s a good time to get our perspective and see campus.”

Christine Sneva, senior director of enrollment and student services at Cornell Tech, agrees: “Spring is actually an ideal time because as someone who’s scoping out a program’s value proposition, prospective students should be talking to folks at the end of their program. You’ll get a raw, real-time perspective that will most likely stay with you throughout your search.”

4. LESS PRESSURE

Since most MBA admissions deadlines begin in September or October, things can get pretty rushed for applicants in the fall. Assuming the student has taken the GMAT or GRE, there’s the application to navigate, recommenders to organize, and goals to figure out, all while continuing to excel in a full-time job. Amy Mitson, senior associate director of admissions at the Tuck School of Business suggests that, “Spring is a great time to take an advanced look at a program with no pressure. You are still months away from the start of the fall application season. Relax and take it all in! This will also give you something to reflect on when writing your application in the fall.”

5. LONGER LEAD TIME

In addition to reducing pressure, early visits allow a prospective student a chance to reflect on their experiences as they figure out the whole question of fit. The visit will help you figure out where to apply and why. You’ll be able to go beyond rankings or brand reputation as you think about what the school offers you, and importantly, what you offer the school. A spring visit allows you to use the summer to really think through your argument for why the MBA and why a particular school.

Not everyone can visit every target school, but it helps prospective students understand the MBA program’s culture, and it never hurts to make the effort, if possible. Says Tuck’s Mitson, “Nothing beats the first-hand perspective and showing your sincere interest like a visit to campus.”