I just read McKinsey Consulting’s fascinating interview with director Brad Bird. While McKinsey’s focus was on the lessons one can learn about innovating from one of the world’s most innovative companies, Brad Bird’s story was also a story of laudable leadership.
Many applicants find "leadership" the most difficult of the MBA qualities to demonstrate in their applications. It is not just about managing a team; it is about generating exceptional results from it. So the first thing I recommend to you all right now is to read this interview. Through the examples that Mr. Bird shares, we can understand the essentials of good leadership and recognize examples from our own experiences that – we can only hope! – measure up to Bird’s standards.
Many of my clients are official team leaders, but when they share examples of their leadership, I push them for more depth and greater detail to spotlight that leadership for the admissions committees. For example, if Bird were writing his own HBS leadership essay (#3) in 400 words, he might have just talked about the morale of the team and his dedication to improving it. What made Bird’s leadership example truly memorable was the way he conducted that discussion, and any HBS essay that omitted such detail unfortunately might not have earned even a highlighting mark from the adcom reviewing team.
For example, Bird describes the moment he sat 30 Ratatouille developers down and told them that the past year’s work was off the mark – the computer and artistic work were well done but would not connect audiences with the growth and development of the movie’s main character.
"I stopped and thought for a second. I thought, these guys have been sent down blind alleys for a couple of years. They want to know that I’m not doing anything lightly and that if I’m going to make them do a bunch more work, it’s for a reason. So I said, “This movie is about a rat who wants to enter the human world. We have to make that a visual choice for the character. If you have all of the rats walking on two legs, there’s no separation between him and the other rats. If we have this separation as a visual device, we can see the character make his transformation and choose to be on two legs, and he can become more or less ratty, depending on his emotional state. That brings the audience into the character’s mind.”
I spent six minutes saying all this and the guy was initially scowling. But gradually the scowl went away, and he said, “OK.” Once I gave that answer, everyone felt, “OK, we’re on this ship and we’re going toward a definite destination.”
That story immediately grabs the reader: it shows introspection, vision, and true leadership. Bird obviously understands what it takes to motivate people to excel, and that talent is a fundamental ingredient to innovation. His ability to translate motivation and morale into action and results transform him into a truly exemplary leader.
The details in Bird’s thought process and the implementation of his ideas make his Ratatouille experience a truly compelling story. Similar details comprise the best application essays. They present that connection between thought, action, and impact that demonstrates the applicant is worthy of a place in the top programs.
Accepted.com editors are writers and editors with extensive experience pulling out the details from their clients to demonstrate exemplary leadership. Contact an Accepted.com editor to gain that insight and make your essays truly memorable.