How to Demonstrate Leadership Experience

What Makes You a Leader?

businessman speaking to colleagues
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If you plan on applying to a graduate-level business program, you're going to need to be able to demonstrate that you have leadership capabilities, or at minimum, leadership potential. Many business schools, especially schools with top MBA programs, are focused on churning out leaders, so they look for MBA candidates who fit that mold. Being able to demonstrate leadership experience is also important if you want to get a job in the business world after graduation.

In this article, we'll take a look at a few examples of leadership experience and explore self-assessment questions that will help you determine ways in which you have been a leader so that you can demonstrate your leadership experience in an effective way.

What Is Leadership Experience?

Leadership experience is a general term used to describe your exposure to leading other people in various settings. If you have ever supervised other people as part of your job, you have leadership experience. It is important to note that management and leadership are two different things. You don't have to be a manager to be a leader. You may have led other people on a work project or a team-based endeavor.

Leadership can also occur outside of work - maybe you helped to organize a food drive or another community-based project, or perhaps you've served as the captain of a sports team or academic group. These are all examples of valuable leadership experience and are worth mentioning.

Leadership Experience and Business School Applications

Before accepting you into their program, most business schools will want to know about your leadership experience. This is especially true if you are applying to something like an Executive Master of Business Administration (EMBA) program, which is typically filled with mid-career professionals and executives.

 

So, how do you demonstrate the fact that you're a leader who is ready for the challenges of business school? Well, the concept of leadership experience can come up in different ways during the business school application process. Let's take a look at a few examples.

  • Resume: Many graduate programs ask you to submit a resume with your application. Your resume is a great place to highlight your leadership skills and experience.
  • Essay: Some business schools ask you to write an application essay as part of the admissions process. In some cases, you will be given an essay prompt related to leadership experience. Other times, you are allowed to choose your own essay topic. Discussing your leadership experience in an essay is a good way to show that you have leadership potential and the ability to bring something to class that may benefit your peers. 
  • Interview: Not every business school requires candidates to take part in an admissions interview, but some do. If you are asked to participate in an interview during the application process, you should expect at least one question about your leadership experience or leadership potential. 

10 Questions to Ask Yourself About Leadership Experience

Before you begin talking about your leadership experience you should ask yourself a few questions to make sure you are telling the best stories.

Here are ten questions to get you started:

  • How have I motivated others?
  • Have I ever improved the performance of others?
  • Have I been able to make use of other people's talents and skills?
  • How have I addressed or helped other people to address their mistakes?
  • Have I ever marshaled resources to overcome a problem I discovered?
  • In what way have I built on an organization's success?
  • Have I ever helped a team to articulate a vision?
  • How have I helped other people adapt to a new situation?
  • What methods have I used to boost morale within an organization?
  • How have I helped others overcome challenges in their personal or professional life?

Remember, leadership experience isn't always necessarily about what you have done - it's about what you have helped other people do.