Welcome back to the Master Admissions 10-Tip series. In the first tip, I recommended you start early, and in the second tip , I recommended you take inventory. Now it’s time to take the leap to connect with your inner rock star.
Leadership Goes Far Beyond Any Title
Every business school is looking for students who are leaders – and that definition of leadership is very broad. “Leadership encompasses more than managing people,” says the University of Chicago’s Rose Martinelli in her excellent blog, The Rose Report. You may not have had direct reports, but “you were successful because of your influence, effective communication skills, and your ability to motivate people toward a shared goal,” she adds. Dartmouth’s Tuck defines leadership as “inspiring others to strive and enabling them to accomplish great things.”
Demonstrating leadership can mean anything from running a classroom to being the idea person in your work team. From standing up for an unpopular position, to organizing a food drive. In a nutshell, leadership is about your inner rock star.
Get Comfortable with the Personal
So how do you connect with rock-star you? First, you have to get a comfortable with the personal – the application process and the essays require a lot of introspection. Be prepared to explore what makes you want to excel. Admissions officers are clear that they want a fully three-dimensional person sitting in those coveted business school seats. Derrick Bolton, head of the Stanford GSB admissions committee, explains it succinctly: “We want a holistic view of you as a person: your values, passions, ideas, experiences, and aspirations.”
Introspection can, and should be individual. Going through the process of thinking about what makes you that motivated, driven, inspired leader of tomorrow can feel onerous. So make sure you take notes.
You might want to keep a journal of those observations. If you feel that a journal is too Oprah, just scribble down your own observations and thoughts. If you work on a team, take notes on what works, and what doesn’t. Where do you fit in? What would it take for you to oppose the consensus of the group. Notes on group dynamics will also help when you might want to come up with examples of team wins, losses, or conflict resolution.
You’d be surprised over the course of weeks or even months of what you have written. Thoughts and impressions that might have otherwise been lost to memory will help when you start drafting the essays and crafting your story.
Leadership = Emotional IQ
Looking for these rock star traits within yourself does not have to be an exercise in bravado.
Schools are also looking for leaders that present emotional intelligence. For those who haven’t read and dissected Daniel Goleman’s classic works on Emotional IQ, get started now. You can find a summary of his seminal article , “What Makes a Leader?” in a post I wrote back in December. Goleman’s model of emotional intelligence has dramatically improved the global discussion of leadership. Hopefully, this model will help you take both a broader, deeper, and more self-aware view of what you bring to the party.
Leadership is the heart and soul of the business school program. For some more inspiration on how schools look at leadership, take a look at Wharton’s exciting Leadership in Action Programs, Stanford GSB’s leadership labs, or wander around Harvard Business School’s Leadership mini-site.