Monday, May 21, 2007

Leadership, Strengths and Weaknesses

Almost all the bschools ask about leadership, teamwork, strengths and weaknesses.

- Leadership: Describe your leadership experience? What did you learn from it?

While understanding this question better, I had found a very good post by Stacy Blckman . For some candidates, this is an easy question by virtue of their position. They are already in a leadership role at work (e.g. VP, CEO, founder of a organization etc). But this question is not about role or a position. It is about what you did in a position or role that qualified you as a leader, where your team looked upto you for vision, guidance, motivation and the ability to direct the team along a certain path.

I personally believe that leadership happens amongst a set of people. It is not solitary. Therefore, winning a competition in the first place where you were the sole beneficiary may not qualify as a leadership activity, unless you have led a team here. Questions that can help you while writing an essay are:

-- What was the situation? Give some context
--- What your role, what did you do ? Write very briefly
---- What were some challenges that you faced, ethically, with people on your team, strategic decision making, other team or client issues?
----- How did you solve these challenges? Did you consult your team? What was the impact on the team? How did people respond ?
------ What did you learn from this experience? (Cannot miss this)

Strengths and Weaknesses:

This is another common question in the essays or during interviews. Most people are aware of their strengths, but it is the "weakness" portion that pose questions. What "weakness" is the bschool looking for? If I write about my real "weakness" , won't they reject me? NO.

We, human beings, are not perfect at everything. Each of us has some weakness, that no matter whatever you do, remains our weakness and sometimes shows up in the way one does things. This is what we should be writing about. This is not the "I really work hard" type of weakness. Do not write something that the books tell you write. The bschools want to know that you are aware of your shortcomings and can channel that weakness through strengths of others. Great leaders showcase that strength. They find the right people in the team with complimentary skills.

I am not going to mention further examples here, but if your inner conscience is clear, I am sure you will know what your weakness is && how you have dealt with it in the past.
Regarding strengths, the message is clear. In both cases, you will have to provide specific examples in your essays. Do not write vague, generic answers for such questions.

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