What is the first image that comes into your mind when you think about leadership? For me it is someone who inspires a large crowd to listen carefully, and act decisively. Most likely, the action is not routine and require you to come out of your comfort zone. When Gandhi inspired Indians to protest against the tax laws of the British, he was not asking them to like a post or re-tweet a ‘thought’. He was asking millions of Indians to join a 240-mile march from Ahmedabad to Dandi in protest against the salt taxes, and violate the British Law by producing Salt in the coastal town of Navsari. The march in 1930 was the pre-cursor to India’s independence movement.
When MBA Admissions team asks you to write about leadership, one quality that they actively seek in a candidate is courage. Unfortunately, applicants tend to devalue their moment of courage as a routine action, and in many of our interactions with applicants, we have found it to be true. To figure out the moment of courage in your professional and personal life, we have shortlisted three qualities that define ‘courage’.
We have an instinctual bias towards people who act, not the ones...
When MBA Applicants are asked to write about leadership, they start with how they allocated the tasks to the team, monitored, and completed them as per the schedule. Managers play a pivotal role in project management but when schools ask about leadership, they are not expecting your experiences as a Manager. The implicit questions hidden behind the ‘leadership’ question are three:
a) How did you manage a Crisis?
As we face one challenge after the other, our values metamorphose, and our foundational values change. The foundation takes shape as a child, primarily through our parents or the primary caregiver. We mimic the behavior of the adult, and unknowingly absorb implicit values behind each action. If the adult is a risk taker, and encouraged you to experiment, make mistakes, and learn from it, an Entrepreneurial streak would have become part of your DNA. The sub-conscious reaction to the crisis is a learned value from childhood but with each experience, the values change, either as a residue of actions...
360-Degree feedback about Managers and leadership rarely offer an in-depth review of what is lacking in a leader. In such a scenario, knowing about oneself is limited to the opinions of the close network, majority of whom depends on the leader’s evaluation for promotion and other benefits. When the balance of power is blatantly one-sided, leaders live in a bubble. The grandiose self-image comes from the exaggerations of sycophants.
If you had the opportunity to lead a team, what was the biggest criticism that was hurled against you? Find out how to showcase your leadership by downloading our Essay Guide.
Most 360-degree feedback offers token criticism like “too much control” and praises hidden as criticism like “non-negotiable deadlines.” The most obvious criticism in such an environment is “lack of inspiration”.
When was the last time you sat with a team member, and asked her to list five areas where you can improve? It takes a strong...
Leaders have the ability to listen and empathize. But acknowledging a person involve more than that. We had comprehensively covered about leadership qualities in our Essay Guide (download here). A quality that proves our listening capacity is the ability to acknowledge. As kids, we were trained to acknowledge the other person while they were talking. The rudest listeners gaze up, or get distracted when the conversation lasts more than 30 seconds. The speaker gets anxious and feels disrespected when the listener shows signs of “boredom”. In a 140-character universe, this tendency might seem acceptable but leaders are the exception.
Great leaders have the ability to acknowledge emotions. During the 1992 presidential campaign, Bill Clinton famously used the words “I feel your pain”. Although the authenticity of the emotions...
Leaders possess an innate ability to reach out to the marginalized, the underdogs, and the “odd one out”. This seems an unnecessary chore but leaders understand that to get the team to work as a single unit there should not be an ‘odd one out’ that affects the team spirit.
We had a star performer in our company whom people hated. The man in his mid-30s had a family, and the burden of managing the family was worn in his sleeves. He had no time for silly discussions, and when team meets every week, he was sure to miss the fun. As a team, you are likely to meet some aberrations and the leaders in our case – the manager did not find it worthwhile to convince the senior team member to join the discussion. He was a critical piece in the puzzle when it came to solving complex problems. With a new project, leadership changed, and the new Manager was hell bent on finding the root cause.
Instead of avoiding the star performer, the Manager engaged with him, talked about the challenges, and obtained valuable inputs about the project. He wanted to get reviews about team members. Initially, the reclusive star performer hesitated to give inputs but with persistent prompting, he spelled out the problem – “My...
Leadership traits cannot be learned from manuals and textbooks. It consists of behavioral patterns and traits that are organically evolved in people. Some traits are inherited and others, acquired, but the important ones are acquired by overcoming challenges.
For instance, choice between ethics and inflated profits is a clear test of the leader’s moral compass. The best decisions, maintain a balance between good ethics and healthy profits. If an ethical dilemma prevails, then leaders should rely more on hindsight and less on intuition. It is not easy to judge leadership potential, but most MBA AdCom agrees that applicants with leadership potential show most of the following qualities.
Self-regulation determines the manner in which leaders behave in the workplace. The leaders who do not keep emotions in check, would likely put off people; and the ones who do, gains amiable support from peers. Before enforcing rules and regulations in business, leaders should ensure complete adherence from their part. One of the ways to gauge this trait among MBA applicants is to look at past records – both academic and professional. A simple phone...
Most MBA Applicants will have little experience managing at mid or senior level. The only opportunity that they get is through project level management, independent consulting, and other start-up roles. Although start-up roles offer a wide range of responsibilities, the experiences in itself are not proof of leadership skills.
Full-time MBA applicant does not have to worry about writing like executive MBA Applicants, where they have to quantify the targets reached through their leadership initiatives. MBA Adcom is looking for Leadership Potential. They are aware of the responsibilities that 3-5 years’ experienced applicant face in one to two jobs.
We have listed the top 7 traits that might not directly show leadership skills but proves leadership potential in an MBA Applicant.
1) Information Ninja
The information that we process on a daily basis has increased by several folds in post-2000 era. However, a leader understands that information is just the first step. How you translate information to guidelines for decision making is what separates a Leader from a follower.
It can be overwhelming to manage a team when there are several things that take the focus away from the goals. Good leaders have to remain calm, maintain perspective, and a good sense of humor amidst the chaos. In addition to that, leaders have to motivate and keep the spirits high. So how can the leaders maintain focus?
Follow the Project Schedule
Even though it seems impossible to achieve the goals, deadlines, milestones, and eventually project completion, a positive spirit and a never-give-up attitude can be contagious, and inspire the team members to push their boundaries, and come out of their comfort zones. So when the team members show their doubt about meeting the deadlines - inspire them, and maintain a positive can-do attitude, and the deadlines wouldn’t look impossible.
Decision Based on Facts
As a leader, you will not only have to manage the project but essentially manage the team member’s emotional states. It can be easy to loose focus and spent a lot of energy on managing personal conflicts. Although it is crucial to manage personal issues and conflicts, never take your eyes away from the facts that would help you make...
The image of a leader that has been conveyed in popular culture is that of someone who is giving orders and is constantly planning something. Contrary to popular images, a big part of being an effective leader is having excellent listening skills.
Talking to your team members is just one part of communication but listening, and engaging with them is key to building a strong team. The word “Engage” means, “to occupy the attention or efforts of a person”. You cannot do that if you are multitasking or passively listening to the team member while you are planning what to say next or thinking about the next task in the project schedule. You have to give undivided attention to the team member. Remember, if you are leading a big team, it is not easy for someone to come to you and talk to you one on one, unless it is important. Give the benefit of the doubt to the speaker, and listen with your whole body.
Opportunities & Conflicts
Listening with your whole body is a skill that you can develop as a leader. It means - you have to keep all your senses open to interpret what the speaker is conveying. You have to observe the non-...
Many think that humility is the least associated quality with leadership. When you think about successful leaders, it is the image of vocal leaders that come to our mind. There is no harm in being vocal about goals, and principles. In fact, over communicating is a key skill that is required to lead a team. But humility by definition does not mean that you have to be meek.
The confusion arises because Humility has different definitions
Webster's College Dictionary defines Humility as
“modest opinion of one's own importance or rank; meekness”
According to Wordnet it is
“a lack of false pride”
The most modern definition is:
“the quality of being modest and respectful”
From a leadership quality point of view, the definition for Humility would be “Respectful to others and a lack of false pride.”
So how can a leader show respect, and not be fooled with false pride?
1) Show Appreciation
An important quality of a leader is to show appreciation in public, and criticize in...
Personal responsibility does not come that often when you think about leadership qualities. It is always about “My Team didn’t perform well”, “We lacked coordination”, “Our communication was poor.” You can make all the excuses you want but if you are leading a team, the failure is because of one person – “You.” The team has given you the authority to lead. So how do you go about explaining failure as a leader in your essay?
1) Own It
As you might have read in our previous article about Trust as a leadership quality – as much as team members love to have autonomy in making decisions, real leaders own up their mistakes. Lack of communication and coordination arises when leaders don’t set up processes to do so.
2) Lessons Learned
Once you own the mistake, it becomes easier as a leader to look back and analyze what went wrong. Every failure has a lesson hidden in it. Find out the root cause of the failure, and if you have learned the lesson, explain how that failure has been useful to you as a leader.
When you take personal responsibility for the team, and...
This is part of our Leadership series that emphasis qualities that should be highlighted for your MBA Application. Today we will focus on ‘Trust’, a key quality that allows you to influence your team members.
If you have read books on leadership that came out during the 50s and 60s, it often focused on body language, tone of voice and other external factors that you can easily control. It no longer works to focus just on them, instead an inside-out approach works better.
So how do you build trust?
1) Maintain Consistency of Standards
This is the most important quality. The consistency of standards should not just be limited to what you apply for your team members but also for you. If you are never on time in any meeting, you don’t have the authority to ask someone in your team to be on time. Another common conflict seen in a team is difference in standards applied to close friends and other team members. Friendship is good for maintaining a good morale in a team but when it comes to measuring performance and taking action, the standards should be clear and applied consistently for everyone. When you are partial...
Leadership Essay is a common essay in most MBA Application. Although you might not get a direct question about your leadership style, AdCom would like to get a peek into how you behave when assigned with higher responsibilities. The tone, the action steps, and the results that you mention in the essays give hints about your leadership style.
Leadership styles can be classified into three categories: Autocratic, Democratic and Delegative.
A bossy leader giving commands is what comes to our mind when we think about Autocratic leadership. There is nothing wrong with this leadership. Some of the best CEOs are autocrative or authoritarian. Steve Jobs is the best example. He often used to delegate the creative aspects of product design to his team, but when it came to picking the final design for the product, it was Steve Jobs way or the highway. These leaders will have a high standard of quality and would not settle until they get the best from the team.
When it comes to MBA Application, portraying such leadership can be detrimental in getting into a top Business School. You would not be leading a company but collaboratively working with...
F1GMAT: Leadership MBA Essay is a crucial component in an MBA application. You have helped hundreds of MBA applicants. How do you define leadership from an MBA admissions point of view? What part of leadership do the AdCom value?
Stacy Blackman: What is leadership? If you are applying to an MBA program, you are going to need to figure out the answer to this question. Many applications have specific questions focused on your defining leadership experiences. While others don’t boast a “leadership” question per se, the best applicants will emphasize and demonstrate the idea of leadership throughout their applications.
Related: To find out how to highlight your leadership skills, download our MBA Application Essay Guide