Manager vs. Leader (Know the difference for your MBA Application Essay)

When Harvard Business School started the first MBA program in 1908, Frederick Winslow Taylor’s Theory on Scientific Management was finding fame with the four-step principles in General Management:
• Converting Information to Rules for completing tasks
• Using a scientific approach to train workers
• Monitoring workers to follow the scientific approach
• Dividing the works of Managers and Workers so that Managers plan and workers perform the tasks.

Modern Management practitioners might cringe at the use of the word ‘Worker’ and would find it impossible to follow a simple four-step process.

MBAs now are more than a person who manages ‘workers’. They should be specialists, generalists and most importantly a master persuader to direct the team towards project/company goals. That is how leadership has taken precedence in MBA lexicon. Unfortunately, students tend to exaggerate their managerial roles as leadership initiative, and quite often the admission team assumes the transgression as an exaggeration.

We can’t blame the applicants.

Schools hardly mention the difference between leadership and Managerial roles when they give guidelines for writing an essay.

Manager vs. Leader (Know the difference for your MBA Application Essay)

There is a thin line between a Manager and a Leader. As a leader, you are expected to have worked with more than one person, persuaded them to follow your suggestions and impact the team in a positive way.

When you write about success and offer context, understanding the difference between a Manager and a Leader is paramount.

1) Managers Micromanage Leaders Stay Away

A traditional Manager is someone who asks for the status of a task every 15 minutes. Newly promoted professionals might assume that it is productive to keep the team on their foot, but their inexperience shines through when the team’s productivity dips. There is nothing wrong in writing about how you successfully navigated a tight schedule but any hint that you micromanaged the tasks will naturally cross you over from a leader to a Manager. Always remember – top MBA programs are looking for passionate leaders or candidates with leadership potential.

2) Leaders Persuade; Managers Order

Another inherent characteristic of a leader is their ability to persuade, not through some sophisticated techniques but by finding common grounds and listening empathetically to each team member. Most leaders are good at brainstorming, and guiding the team when they are stuck at crucial junctures of a project delivery. A leader should earn the respect of the team before persuading. She should be willing to listen to the team's fears and insecurities from a career and growth perspective. If the conversation is all about project delivery, the team will quickly categorize you as a Manager. You will have little influence over the team. Business Schools want to learn how you persuade. Even if you followed an unconventional method, share it with the admission team. They are looking to learn something new from your essay.

3) Managers Monitors; Leaders Inspire

Managers are good at monitoring the task, and following it up with the team. Leaders don’t look at tasks in isolation. They are involved, and in cases where the team needs guidance, the leader does not hesitate to take the ownership of a few sub-tasks. Autonomy during initial stages of the project, when the problems are poorly defined, is not ideal, and if the team lacks experience, they are looking for the expertise of the leader. A Manager goes by one rule – autonomy and constant monitoring while leaders understand that a one-rule system does not work for everyone in the team. Stating examples of two personality types in your team, whom you inspired would be an ideal narrative for essays about leadership. Explain how you addressed their insecurities.

4) Leaders Mentor; Managers Facilitate

Leaders make sure that the interaction with the team is not a one-off show for the project. They value personal relationship. When one of the team members escalates a problem in the project, the leader takes partial ownership of the task. A Manager has the least skin in the game and looks for experts in the team to take ownership. What happens during such facilitation is that experts are not obliged to follow through, and the escalated problems soon become the reason for project delays and poor team performance. Leaders also understand that the team members with lower experience will grow as a professional when the project concludes. For the leader, the learning goals are equally important, and he encourages the team member to take extra functional and technical training. The initiative shows how you evaluate the team’s strengths and weaknesses – a critical skill as a leader.

5) Managers Define Roles; Leaders Take Complete Responsibility

During the initial phase of the project, Managers define roles, and each professional is expected to focus on the tasks assigned. The team member takes the ownership in case of any failure. Leaders take complete ownership of the team’s failure even if the team member is at fault. The leader’s pro-active problem solving ensures that the team member who is behind the schedule is not left out as an outlier. With the leader creating a protective shield for the team, the environment is ripe for innovation. Explain how you encouraged the team to come up with an innovative solution. What process did you follow? How did you mitigate the risk of failure?

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Only 1 in 900 gains admission to Harvard MBA program. If you write your essay focused only on your achievements, post-MBA goals, and your pre-MBA experience, you will be among the 899 rejected applicants.

ATTENTION is the secret ingredient. How will you get the attention of the essay reviewer?

You know why parables shared 1000 years ago are still shared among us?


Yes, the art of storytelling has won presidency for Obama, transformed Apple from an unknown start-up to a brand synonymous with Quality, and gained admission for the average MBA Applicant.

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If you feel that the essays are not persuasive, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will teach you how to use the W-Pattern narrative, Contexts, Turning Points and "The Show Don't Tell Approach" to write a Winning MBA Essay.

If you don't have enough leadership experience, our Winning MBA Essay Guide will show you how to highlight non-obvious qualities like Trust, Focus, Listening Skills, Personal Responsibility, Humility, Self-Knowledge, and other secondary traits to prove your leadership.

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Pages: 546

Winning MBA Essay Guide: Includes the latest Essay Tips for
+Harvard (2018 Entering Class)
    Sample MBA Essay – Gratitude & Giving Back   
    Sample MBA Essay – Entrepreneurship (Influence of Childhood)   

Stanford (2018 Entering Class)
    Sample Essay A
+ Chicago Booth (2018 Entering Class)
    #1. Modern Art = Make you Think   
    #2. Teamwork and Individual Ambition   
    #3. Adventure   
    #4. Diversity = Creativity   
    #5. Classroom Experience   
    #6. Harper Center   

+ Columbia (2018 Entering Class)
     Sample MBA Essay – Most Passionate About   
     Sample MBA Essay – Free Day   

+ MIT Sloan (2018 Entering Class)
     Sample Cover Letter
+ Kellogg (2018 Entering Class)
     Sample Essay - Leadership and Challenges   
     Sample Essay - How you have grown and intend to grow   

NYU Stern
(Coming Soon)
(2018 Entering Class)
    Sample Essay 1: Candid Description, Strengths & Weaknesses
    Sample Essay 2: Achievements and Failures
    Sample Essay 3: Extra-Curricular and How enriched you are

Haas (2018 Entering Class)
     Sample MBA Essay: Non-Profit   
     Sample MBA Essay: Technology   
     Sample MBA Essay: Marketing   
     Sample MBA Essay: Getting Fired   
     Sample MBA Essay: Diverse and Inclusive Culture   
     Sample MBA Essay: Leadership   
     Sample MBA Essay: Post-MBA Goal & How Pre-MBA Experience will help  
+ Yale SOM (2018 Entering Class)
     Sample MBA Essay – Investment Banker
     Sample MBA Essay - Consultant  
     Sample MBA Essay - Technologist  
     Sample MBA Essay - Marketer  
     Sample MBA Essay - Entrepreneur  
+ Ross (2018 Entering Class)
    Sample MBA Essay: Finance Professional who was a former member of a rock band  
    Sample MBA Essay: Technologist (Idea to Action)  
    Sample MBA Essay: Creative Marketing (Idea to Action)  
    Sample MBA Essay: Consulting (Made a Difference)  
    Sample MBA Essay: Losing a Client (Resilience)  
    Sample MBA Essay: Finance to Marketing (extra-curricular)  
    Sample MBA Essay: I am Aware that I am different  
    Sample MBA Essay: I find it Challenging when People  
    Sample MBA Essay: A valuable thing I have taught someone  
    Sample Essay – Part 2 (Short-term & Long-Term Goals, skills relevant to your career goals and how
    Ross prepares you for the goals) 

+ Wharton (2018 Entering Class)
    8 Professional Gains
+ London Business School (2018 Entering Class)
    London as the Financial Hub   
    London as the Technology Hub   
    London as the Consulting Hub   
    How to Cite the Curriculum (Example)   
    Sample LBS MBA Essay: Post-MBA Goals - How Prior Experience & LBS MBA will contribute (486   

+ Sample Essays
+ The Art of Storytelling 
+ Leadership Narratives
+ Review Tips
+ Persuasion Strategies
+ The Secret to "unleashing" your unique voice
+ How to write about your Strengths
+ How to write about your Weaknesses

Download Winning MBA Essay Guide (2018 Entering Class)

Top 31 MBA Programs + Analysis of 24 Industries (United States)

We analyze the MBA Curriculum, Class Profile, Total Cost and Post-MBA Salary of Top 31 MBA programs in the US.

+ Industry Trends

+ Future of Aerospace, Agriculture, Artificial Intelligence (AI), Automobile, Clean Tech, Education, Energy, Fashion, Financial Services, Insurance, FinTech, Government, Healthcare, Life Sciences, Military, Manufacturing, Maritime, Media/Advertising, Technology, Tourism, Trade, Transportation and Logistics, Virtual Reality (VR), and Augmented Reality (AR).

Pages: 327


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"What I liked: The breadth of the information. Some of my favorite nonfiction books have taken the same approach as the ultimate guide have - cover background information in-depth. In the book, the author uses parallel threads to demonstrate the history of the state and the rise of industries. Will make you think how schools thrive based on the policy set by the state. California's obsession with Technology has revolutionized how we do Business and changed post-MBA trends. Many MBA applicants will be consulting or doing marketing for a Technology company. That is one key finding from the book. The latest development in AI, FinTech, and Automation is an additional context that I found valuable in the book.

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Download How to Choose the Best MBA in US: The Ultimate Guide
(2018 Entering Class)

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