From The Staff of MBA Admit.com
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How to Discuss Leadership if You’ve Never Led a Team
What counts as having “enough” leadership experience? Many candidates write to me very concerned that they will not meet the standards of the top-10 business schools because they feel they do not have enough leadership experience. They ask, “How can I show my leadership skills in my admissions essays if I’ve never formally led a team?”
One way for me to subdue the concerns of my clients is to use the case study of investment banking analysts who are admitted to the top-5 MBA programs every year. The typical investment banking analyst has 2 to 3 years of work experience and, as such, has never led a team in the core area of his or her work. However, the investment banking analysts who are admitted to the top-5 MBA programs know that the key to success in this situation is to talk about the leadership skills you have developed in the workplace in other ways – both formal and informal. In terms of formal roles, you may have been assigned to lead a portion of a team’s project, or to lead a discrete, definable task as part of a larger project. Similarly, some candidates are appointed to workplace committees (such as committees dealing with workplace morale or employee training), where they lead teams. While this is not a part of their “core” work, it is still valuable leadership experience that a candidate can write about in the MBA admissions process.
Informally, you may also have served as a mentor to junior professionals, or you may have helped your team leader in ways that you can write about in the admissions process.
In both cases, you can talk about the leadership skills you employed to bring success. How did you identify and articulate goals, delegate work, and manage workflow? Remember, there are many different types of leadership – for instance, managing upward and managing across. Reflect on the breadth of your work experience. A few specific examples can also help build your candidacy. You likely have more to draw on than you realize.
Dr. Shel (Shelly Watts)
President, MBA Admit.com