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MBA Application Leadership Quality #1: Changing Culture

The term ‘Leadership’ has been bastardized by Instagram, motivational gurus, corporate honchos and spiritual leaders of all reputation. The MBA Admissions team has a realistic expectation of your leadership narrative. Unless you were a Founder of a successful startup (unlikely to apply for an MBA) that exited for millions of dollars, leadership doesn’t require ‘saving the world’ qualities.

Leadership Definition for MBA Application

Leadership simply translates to IMPACT and permanent change in the way the company, project, team or a client operated. If you have directly contributed in introducing processes, technology, products, communication framework or expanded the context of the problem to a long-term view where IMPACT lies, the examples will show your potential as a leader.


Changing Culture as an example for MBA Application

We had a client, who transposed a US start-up culture to India

For 2-years he worked in a start-up in the US where the team ranged in age from 22 to 58. There was no one spoon feeding on the daily tasks. The initial project requirements were discussed in an exhaustive 2-day session, the ideal processes explained, and the final deadline revealed. The rest was up to each individual to traverse the numerous intermediate steps towards the final solution. The only catch was that there was a fixed working hour – 8 to 5. By 5:05 pm, the offices were closed. The ID-cards stopped working. The Founder/CEO believed in the power of deadline and believed that creativity doesn’t require a blunt, wasting time on inconsequential conversations, or marinating idea with late-night drinking. Come up with an Idea between 8 to 5 or leave and let the backlogs pile on. The initial weeks were stressful as employees in the creative team complained about the rigidity. Soon, even the most outspoken critique of the policy adapted. In just three years, the company witnessed a sharp drop in attrition as the employees had a life beyond work. The quality of the work improved and the eternal myth that ideas originate in wasteful energy was busted.

The client was instrumental in implementing the new policy for the team in the US. The CEO wanted him to bring the same culture of ‘efficiency’ to the Bangalore office. Typical to most Asian stereotypes you might have heard, the Bangalore office frowned upon anyone who left before 6 pm. The work stretched from 10 to 8, blurring the difference between office and private life, with many forced to do private chores during office hours, leading to attrition rate in the 30-40% range, the next year. The quality of the work suffered. The initial days of implementing the project were met with strong resistance. Switching off the light and forcing a grown person to leave the office desk was not a pleasant sight. Notwithstanding the productivity that suffered in the short-term, the client successfully changed the culture of the organization.

The recommender – in this case, the CEO/Founder wrote a masterful narrative unlike the clichés you would see in recommendation letter and explained how ‘the client’ was the ‘George Patton’ of his start-up – strict, disciplined but understood human motivations.

That simple analogy sold the candidacy for the client into an M7 school.


The admission team doesn’t have to work in your industry or be familiar with the job description to understand the challenges of changing the culture of an organization.


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