Since last year, I have received a number of emails from applicants telling me how my article titled How To Show Leadership When You Don’t Have Reporting Responsibilities helped them brainstorm ideas for their leadership stories. Recently, an applicant reached out to me with a couple of queries regarding that article about leadership.
Here are his questions along with my responses:
Question #1: From the facts that are put together on your article, I understand that excellence in a technical role and the leadership qualities exhibited add value to the B-School essays and thereby contribute to the selection. I have work experience of 3 years in an IT company in a technical role. How do I project the improvements done at work by technology enhancements? I feel explaining that would only support my technical expertise at the role rather than projecting any expertise in leadership or managerial capabilities. How do I handle this?
Answer: I am sure while handling technical projects, you must be dealing with human beings. Your leadership skills will be assessed in the ways you have dealt with those people e.g. clients, team members, etc. You may ask yourself the following questions:
- Did you have to handle a critical situation while working on that technical project?
- Did you have to deal with an uncooperative team member?
- Did you have to take a decision with insufficient information?
- Did you have to step out of your assigned job responsibilities and go the extra mile to complete a project on time?
- Did you have to convince someone of your innovative ideas when working on this project?
- Did you have to get out of your comfort zone and take an initiative while working on that technical project?
If the answer to any of these questions is yes, you have demonstrated leadership qualities. Go ahead and elaborate that story using the 4-part structure –challenge/situation, action, outcome, significance/ learning.
Question #2: I have done process improvement which has resulted in considerable dollar savings for the company. When I mention these achievements on my essays or during the interview, will the admission council necessarily expect documents substantiating the achievements? What do I do if I don't have any certifications or awards as such?
Answer: It would have been great if you had won awards or certifications. In case you haven’t, you can demonstrate the impact in a variety of ways e.g a promotion or a salary raise. Some people get promoted ahead of time because of their excellent performance on a particular project/ assignment. That’s an award, too. Some people are assigned challenging projects in appreciation of their performance. That’s also a kind of award. You also must have received verbal appreciation or appreciation in emails from your clients or supervisor.
No, you will not need any documentation to substantiate your achievements; your stories will advocate for you. That is, you will need to explain how you felt, what you said, and what you did. Through your essays, the Ad Com will get a sense of how you process information, how you handle a crisis, and how you navigate through various situations to reach a solution. Since you have “already done process improvements which have resulted in considerable dollars savings for the company,” go ahead and weave it into engaging and convincing narratives about how you accomplished them.
Note: You may click here to read the article on Leadership.