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Leadership and the Top MBA Applicant

[日期:2006-11-03] 来源:Princeton 作者:Daphne Atkinson [字体: ]

By Daphne Atkinson
Former Director of Admissions
Cornell's Johnson Graduate School of Management

All top business schools today are looking for leaders. This is so important to us at Cornell's Johnson School that we now offer two-year, full-tuition MBA fellowships for up to twenty-five of the U.S.'s most outstanding young leaders.

But how do admissions directors identify leaders? At the Johnson School, we consider the following:

  • A consistent pattern of taking initiative and engendering change. Consistency is key; the best leaders are constantly surveying their environment to see how they can make it better, wherever they are.
  • Balance. In addition to a solid record of academic and professional achievements, leaders also have a variety of activities they are involved in outside of school or work.
  • Comfort taking calculated risks. Leaders are not afraid to take an occasional, well-thought-out chance.
  • A genuine desire to leave a legacy that lasts beyond their involvement in an organization. The best leaders manage to involve other people in their activities such that their legacy lives on.

Positioning Yourself As a Leader in an Admissions Interview

Interviews can provide you with an outstanding opportunity to demonstrate your leadership skills. If you are interviewed, try to do the following:

  • Actively manage the interview process. Don't just passively answer the questions fired at you. Have a game plan—write down three or four key points you want to make. Leaders recognize when they need to redirect a conversation to showcase their strengths and ensure that their agenda gets met.
  • Have several cogent stories prepared about how you took initiative or participated in a leadership role. Be able to tell them quickly and succinctly, what you did, how you did it, who else you involved and why you did it. Pay attention to managing the time well. The detail you can provide in a onehour interview won't fit into a 30-minute slot.
  • Make sure you have something to talk about. Many people participate in solid extracurricular activities while they are in a structured school setting, but let their activities trail off as they move to the more complex environment of the working world. Have you sustained an appropriate level of leadership and community service?
  • Reinforce your stories with your physical aura of confidence (eye contact, an enthusiastic voice, a relaxed but attentive posture). Know how to listen as well as to talk.
  • Establish rapport with the interviewer early in the interview process. Master the art of pre-interview chitchat so that it comes comfortably and naturally.
  • Look carefully at what you've accomplished. There are many ways to demonstrate leadership. Consider examples of leadership that you may be missing—especially where your leadership wasn't necessarily public or visible. Ask yourself: "Where have I made an impact?" Acknowledge the role of a team (very few operations are solo enterprises), but do highlight your leadership role. Talk about how you energized and managed the team of people who helped.
  • Never stretch an experience where you weren't really in a leadership position. Making a mountain out of a molehill will instantly destroy your credibility. Distinguish between cases in which you actually took initiative and those in which you actively supported someone else.

During her tenure as director of admissions at Cornell's Johnson School, Daphne Atkinson was responsible for selecting the Park Leadership Fellows. She has also worked as a financial manager at Dun & Bradstreet and as a human resources program administrator, providing training and developing programs to federal agencies. She has an MBA from the Johnson School.

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