The MBA Leadership Essay*


The Leadership Essay is your chance to show how you have succeeded in “uncharted territory,” demonstrating the will and ability to see an opportunity, execute a plan to leverage it, and overcome the obstacles that threaten success. Taking leadership often requires trying something new, which in turn requires winning the support of others. For this reason, this essay also presents a chance to demonstrate your teamwork and interpersonal skills as important components of your leadership ability.

Sample 2007 Leadership Essay Questions

Give us an example of a time when you displayed leadership. (500 word maximum) (UC Berkeley)

Describe an impact you’ve had on a team, group or organization. How has this experience been valuable to you or others, and what did you learn? (Wharton)

In discussing Columbia Business School, Dean R. Glenn Hubbard remarked, “We have established the mind-set that entrepreneurship is about everything you do.” Please discuss a time in your own life when you have identified and captured an opportunity. (recommended 500 word limit) (Columbia)

When constructing this essay, please consider the following structure:


The “Background” illustrates the difficulty and importance of your efforts; what’s at stake if you win or lose. The “Progress” is your beginning steps before you encountered the “Problems” you and your team faced that threatened the project. The “Solutions” were your specific actions and decisions taken to overcome the obstacles. The “Results” are the outcomes of your solutions. They should measure the impact of your success as broadly as possible. Lastly, the “Analysis” should provide a summary and evaluation of why your actions and decisions were effective, identifying core components of your leadership if possible.

The most common and critical mistake is not detailing precisely both the problems and the solutions, which results in a vague, unimpressive essay that does not demonstrate your true strengths. Interestingly, the obstacles you face almost always revolve around resistance from colleagues, superiors, etc., and so your solutions need to explain how you overcame that resistance. These persuasive abilities are a crucial component of leadership and a vital tool during your MBA where you will be operating in an environment where no one is “boss.”

* Some MBA schools may call this an "accomplishment" essay