The military style of management is usually best avoided in MBA admissions because it is not subtle or complex enough for civilian organizations.
MBA Admissions committees are interested in your leadership style with respect to how you are able to motivate people without resorting to chain of command. To go up to someone’s desk and scream in their ear is hardly going to work in the office. In business, pulling rank usually does more harm than good.
However, occasionally there is something to be gleaned from the military, and here is a video worth two minutes of your time. It features Eric Greitens, a former Navy SEAL, now Governer-elect of Missouri.
In it he describes his epiphany during ‘Hell Week’ when it dawned on him: “This isn’t about me. This test is about my ability to lead and be of service to the people who are in that tent right now.”
Here’s the point from an MBA admissions perspective:
A lot of applicants describe corporate hazing of one type or another. That is, the 80 hours a week worked, vertical learning curves ascended, all-nighters pulled, jet-lag endured, and so on — in terms of personal gain. “I suffered, I showed perseverance and came though it, and learned a lot, and now I’m a better and stronger person.”
That’s okay as far as it goes.
But the real admissions jackpot comes from being able to see it and frame it in cohort terms. How the pain was all about bearing the load with and for the rest of the group, towards achieving goals for the group.
That is, how your effort was about more than just you. Therefore implying what you will do with your MBA will also be more than just about you.
In this regard, note how often MBA admissions instructions from Adcoms conspicuously remind you how leadership is about collective responsibility.
Here’s one from MIT Sloan a few years back: “We seek to enroll well-rounded individuals with the following characteristics:
- Success in your professional endeavors (whether you are well into your career or a college senior)
- Ability to collaborate to accomplish a common goal
- Drive to inspire others to achieve success
- Vision to seek alternative solutions to existing challenges
- Pursuit of meaningful goals.”