Stephen Covey's 4 Pillars of Leadership: The Definition of Leadership You Want in B-school

Business school applications are all about laying out how you have exhibited the qualities of a leader.  After all, this is the quality that b-schools, in general, desire the most in their applicants. 

A lot of my admissions consulting clients struggle with a succinct definition of leadership.  That is, one that they as the applicant can use as a succinct model.  To this point, my clients and prospective MBA students ask me what my definition of leadership is.  I believe Stephen Covey covers it well in this article on his blog. (Ref:


Q: What makes a great leader?

A: My definition of leadership is communicating to people their worth and potential so clearly that they are inspired to see it in themselves.

Q: You often say that leadership is a choice not a position. Can you elaborate on this?

A: Because of the definition I use for leadership, the ability to become such a leader is a choice that any person can make; any parent or grandparent, any teacher, any coach, any co-worker, and friend. When I speak throughout the world, I often ask audiences,

Q: Is there a formula for becoming such a leader?

A: I believe there is a formula. They are what we call the four imperatives of leadership.

  1. The first is to inspire trust

  2. The second is to clarify purpose

  3. The third is to align systems

  4. The fourth is the fruit of the other three—unleashed talent

I would add that these are based upon principles that build upon each other rather than techniques or steps that have to be taken independent of each other. These aren’t “management tricks” but real principles that guide a true leaders character.

The world is vastly different today and ever-changing. If we can develop leaders who can withstand and embrace the changing times by deeply rooting themselves in these principles of great leadership, then we can develop great people, great teams and great results.


Covey's leadership paradigm is important as a lot of b-school applications ask for the applicant to provide meaning leadership experience and examples in their essay.

Follow Covey’s pillars of leadership and you should have a good start to your essay.  The trick is to not only discuss how well you fit this definition but also how you have displayed this style of leadership during your management responsibilities.  Take your essays a step further by showing how you have sought to “pay it forward” and instill these values in those you have led.

Live, love, laugh.  Leave a legacy.
— - Stephen R. Covey, 1932-2012


If you are interested in the MBA Admissions Consulting services offered by Amerasia, please contact us at or to set up a free consultation.