If leaders were born and not made, business schools all over the world would have closed down a long time back.

Exhibiting leadership in business school applications abroad is tantamount to working diligently for your next promotion. No application can be successful for that long dreamed-of postgraduate degree unless and until you can demonstrate your leadership qualities, since after all, a business school’s main purpose is to create leaders who can make it big in the real world.

But why is discovering your leadership so difficult? Are leaders only born, and not made?

If leaders were born and not made, business schools all over the world would have closed down a long time back. What baffles today’s youngsters and applicants are the various different strains of leadership, which essentially point out to a dilemma that has been faced by students for ages.

Repeated to the point of being cliche, the term leadership potential has been used by a myriad of educational institutions to describe a significant factor in admissions criteria of all business schools abroad. With the shift towards more holistic admissions processes, applicant evaluation has ceased to be limited to only tangible grades. Schools now assess their applicants on both academic history and characteristics exhibited. This has eventually led to the obvious question: how do students demonstrate leadership?

To answer this query, it is crucial to ask another such question: how important is demonstrating leadership?

“Take credit for what you have done,” advises Isser Gallogly, New York University’s executive director of MBA Admissions. “You’re helping admissions committees to understand what you will bring to their class.”

Gallogly’s assertion is self-explanatory, and without fail, the data backs it up. Recent admissions trends delineate this in material terms: business schools with smaller classrooms, which have highly holistic application review processes, allocate considerable weight to personality traits like leadership.

On the contrary, larger institutions with more mechanical review methods stick mostly to grades as a measure for applicant competency. This translates into higher emphasis on leadership potential in renowned universities such as the likes of Wharton Business School, as opposed to less emphasis in large-scale institutions such as Arizona State University.

In this regard, Gallogly cites an incident concerning a Stern (NYU Business School) student government president who reunited trafficked children from Nepal with their parents before applying for higher education. Stacy Blackman, founder of a prosperous consultancy firm, further exemplifies the impact of leadership through one of her clients – a Chinese student who launched an English club in China from which he and the society mutually benefited from, and eventually went on to be accepted at Harvard University.

The impact leadership potential bears on an application is thus proportional to the selectivity trends of the institution in question. A good benchmark would be the acceptance rate the university boasts of.

This leads on to the original question: how to portray leadership potential? Blackman does a neat job of summing it up: “Leadership is not the big hairy example of your greatest achievement ever. It can be really the simplest of things.”

In fact, admissions committees prefer simple, apparently insignificant instances that depict innate leadership potential. As opposed to coming off as a hero, experts suggest digging deep and searching for subtler indicators, occurrences showcasing the desire to overstep comfort zones and develop in the process.

It is therefore safe to presume that leadership potential can actually be derived from the most mishap of places. You need to know where to look. And in your application for business schools abroad, no matter how much of a lack of experiences you think you have, dig deep into your past few years and find something where you have made a difference in the lives of the people around you.

Most applicants consider leadership from only one point of view: from an authoritative perspective. But the fact is, a leader and a manager are two different things. Successful leaders demonstrate charisma and knowledge, and use them in ways both implicit and explicit to ensure that the societal value increases in the long run.

They work on achieving moral and ethical good to the maximum, and strive to ensure justice and equality for all. This is why leadership doesn’t always come with a position. Leaders can be anyone faced with a problem, and they set out to find utilitarian solutions for the greater good.

It is this implicit idea of leadership that admission officers evaluating thousands of application in the best business schools of the world are looking for. They don’t always want hotshot executives, successful entrepreneurs or political leaders.

What they are looking for are people who can make a difference in the business world, and this is why the successful portrayal of leadership potential does not necessarily depend solely on the depiction of self-control to supervise others.

Thus, applicants are advised to concentrate on their past life stories instead of looking forward to things that might never happen. You are bound to come up with interesting things that distinguish your characteristics. You just need to look.

Source: Dhaka Tribune

Mustabeen ul Bari is a Research Analyst, Content and Analytics for GradInsights, the career intelligence service of GradConnect. 

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