How to Show Your Leadership Potential in Your MBA Application


Do you have what it takes to be a leader?

One key problem that I noticed over and over again while working in MBA admissions, and as I’ve coached and mentored MBA applicants, is that most candidates undermine their candidacy by belittling what they bring to the table. In other words, too many candidates fail to genuinely acknowledge what they bring to the table under the unfortunate misconception that it’s not impressive enough.

There is no truer example of this than candidates’ tendency to feel that they have no demonstrable leadership skills, and no examples to reference to showcase their leadership potential. We all know that every top program touts that they’re looking to create future business leaders, and are therefore looking to attract applicants that have what they call high leadership potential, but far too many candidates feel they can’t meet those expectations since they have no formal leadership experience (in other words, they haven’t been directly responsible for leading teams and/or have no direct reports).

Now, different programs define leadership different ways, but in general, leadership is the task of effectively guiding or directing others toward a common goal. And in truth, you don’t have to be in a leadership position (aka a “management role”) in order to show leadership skill.

So let’s say you’re asked by your target program to articulate evidence for why you have strong leadership potential, which again, is a very common question to be asked – either in an essay or during an interview. Remember that, at its core, leadership is simply the act of leading others, through your actions or your words, to accomplish a goal or improve themselves in some way.

So what are some solid ways to show leadership experience?

  • Identifying a problem and creating a vision to solve it

  • Organizing resources to address a problem or improve efficiency

  • Motivating others

  • Setting a vision or goal for a group

  • Understanding and leveraging other people’s talents

  • Building consensus

  • Guiding others to make adjustments and overcome mistakes or weaknesses

  • Getting or keeping diverse people / people with differing opinions on the same page

  • Giving advice to a co-worker or superior about how to be more effective

All of these examples show leadership skills. None of them require that the person showing such skills be in a senior or management role.

So when applying to business school and tackling essays or interview questions asking you about your leadership skills, know that you’ve definitely shown leadership potential, even if you’re not yet a manager of other people yet. It’s simply up to you to identify those best examples from your past that show your leadership capabilities best.

If you’re applying to business school this year and are interested in working with me and my team on your applications, book a consultation with me. I’d love to talk with you.

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