Demonstrating leadership is one of the most critical things you must do if you want to impress the MBA adcoms. But what if you don’t have a position of leadership at work?
Leading when you’re not in charge is the answer. If this sounds like an oxymoron, it’s because pulling it off takes a bit of finesse. The stakes are high, however, since the alternative (not having any evidence of leadership in your application) is a sure way to find yourself in the reject pile.
Let’s face it: very few of us have high-level management experience when we decide to go back for our MBA.
This is exactly why we’re going back, right? To have access to the kind of managerial leadership positions that will allow us to have more impact at work. Still, this is not an excuse to miss out on critical leadership experience.
You can always start with peer leadership.
Leading your peers can be as simple as going out of your way to support their success. This is the essence of servant leadership itself. The added bonus of demonstrating this kind of leadership at work is that it will also earn you credit in the teamwork department, another hyper-critical core profile characteristic for MBA applications.
Thought leadership is also achievable even when you are not in charge.
Are you known at work for your good ideas? Are you quick to step up to solve a problem or tackle a complex challenge? This type of behavior at work is thought leadership by definition. Thought leadership is also when you have influence on peers or management. Being a center of influence can be a powerful sign that your leadership potential is high. Business schools don’t expect applicants to be CEOs, they just expect applicants to have the raw materials inside them to become CEOs.
If you still have challenges thinking of examples of how you are a leader even when you are not in charge, you might turn your thoughts to your extracurricular activities.
Being on a board or community service team often allows you to operate as a leader even if you are not the chief organizer or manager of an activity or event. Ultimately, you will need to describe your leadership style and experience whether or not you have a title or responsibility which naturally exudes leadership.