This week the focus of the lengthy (many might argue too lengthy) presidential campaign has been on Super Tuesday. This high-stakes day for the Republican contenders has ten states holding primaries, and 410 delegates — 17.9% of the total number of Republican delegates — up for grabs.
So what attributes have made Mitt Romney, Rick Santorum, Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul the last candidates standing? And what can MBA applicants learn from the strengths and weaknesses of these contenders?
Whether running for president or campaigning for a seat in a top MBA program, the winning candidates must demonstrate a record of achievement, impact, and consistent integrity. Admissions committees and voters prize these bedrock qualities of true leadership.
How does the Republican field fare when examined against these criteria:
- Achievement. Romney’s robust resume, including stints as founder of Bain Capital, CEO at Bain & Company, and governor of Massachusetts, has become his primary strength, while Gingrich points to “7,000 votes, over 1,500 speeches, thousands of television and radio appearances, thousands of articles and op-eds and 24 books.” Santorum touts his legislative experience – five years as a congressman and twelve years as a senator. Dr. Paul points to decades of service both as a physician and a congressman.
- Impact. They’ve been busy, certainly, but how have their actions made a difference? Romney boasts of transforming the fortunes of Massachusetts from job erosion and budget deficit when he took office, to job creation and a $2 billion “rainy day fund” when he left. Gingrich points to his “Contract with America” and the success of 1994’s “Republican Revolution” as evidence of his leadership ability. Paul and Santorum have struggled to demonstrate impact on the same level. For Santorum, introducing the bill to the Senate that ended partial birth abortions is a claim of positive impact. For Paul, it has been his consistent voting record and principled opposition to an expanded government.
- Integrity/consistency. Romney and Gingrich face challenges here. Many voters wonder if Romney’s current positions are based on true conviction or political expediency. Gingrich has been dogged by a reputation for “volatility,” ethics issues when he was Speaker of the House, and a messy personal life. Santorum and Paul have more consistent and reliable records, but can come across as either sanctimonious or too extreme to be electable.
Fortunately for MBA applicants, “running” for a seat in a great b-school doesn’t entail grueling travel, rubber-chicken dinners, and having everything you say used against you. To earn the votes of MBA admissions committees, however, qualified MBA applicants must also display accomplishments, impact, and integrity. These are the critical ingredients adcoms seek in the future leaders who will add value not only to their MBA class, but also to the business world for years to come.
Another critical difference between the presidential and MBA selection process is numbers. Voters choose the one person they think is best qualified for the job. Top MBA programs will accept hundreds of candidates. As Soojin Kwon Koh, director of admissions at the Michigan Ross School of Business, so cogently wrote in a recent blog post, “Remember, b-school admission isn’t about admissibility; it’s about bringing the right group of people together to create a unique learning community.”
The Republican presidential candidate who ultimately does the best job demonstrating achievement, impact, and integrity is probably going to be the one competing with Barack Obama in November. And qualified MBA candidates who do the best job on all three criteria are most likely to be seen as deserving a spot in the “unique learning community” of their choice.
By Linda Abraham, president and founder of Accepted.com and author of the new, definitive book on MBA admissions, MBA Admission for Smarties: The No-Nonsense Guide to Acceptance at Top Business Schools.
Photo credit: DonkeyHotey
Article first published as Leadership Lessons for MBA Applicants From Super Tuesday on Technorati.