Over the weekend I read an article by Rabbi David Lapin, author of the forthcoming book Lead By Greatness, in which he argues, “It is true that most leaders need the power of status to support their effectiveness, but great leaders do not rely on that status to lead, they lead by their own greatness.”
Rabbi Lapin explores the differences between status and stature:
“People of stature do not compete with one another, there is an endless supply of stature for anyone willing to invest in acquiring it.
Influence by means of status however, is a zero-sum game: one person’s gain of status is generally the other person’s loss. There is not an unlimited supply of status. Status has value because it is rare: there can only be one president, CEO, or [dean] for if titles were to be dished out liberally they would lose their value.
I am frequently asked questions reflecting confusion over the difference between stature and status, character and captions, leadership and labels. While titles and awards may reflect stature, character, and leadership, they are also sometimes given out like trinkets or cheap rewards. They can be meaningless. Alternatively, one can handle responsibility well beyond what is expected of most people with a given title and not receive an elevated title. In that case one’s stature has garnered trust and informal recognition — the foundation of leadership — but not a formal designation.
Admissions committees know that titles can be flawed measures of leadership, responsibility, and character. In your essays, whether you have the title or not, you want to show the leadership that flows from stature, not status. It is an attribute based on trustworthiness, a bigness of character, and a focus on group goals; it leads to change and impact.