The uber-attribute of admissions is leadership. Yes schools want to see intelligence and achievement, but when discussing personal qualities, leadership is at the top of every admissions professional’s Most Wanted List.
You can read volumes about leaders and leadership — good and bad. I just finished reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin. In it, Lincoln comes alive as a consummate leader.
According to Goodwin what qualities made Lincoln into one of the most admired if not the most admired president in United States history? Here are a few:
- Willingness to turn to rivals if he felt they were best qualified for a position. It didn’t matter to him whether they had hurt or helped him previously. The man simply refused to bear grudges. “With malice toward none; with charity for all” was not just a nice phrase; it was a way of life. And that bigness of spirit propelled him to heights of leadership.
- Patience with others. While Lincoln could forgive rivals, those around him nurtured their peeves, disagreements, and grudges. Lincoln deftly navigated a hornet’s nest of egos and rivals.
- Willingness to share praise when things went well and shoulder responsibility when things went wrong. He garnered trust from subordinates as a result.
- Combination of principles and shrewdness. He didn’t seek fights he couldn’t win, but he kept his eyes on the values that were truly important to him and pursued them with consistency.
- Gift for using humor and stories to make his point and defuse tension.
In your essays, when can you show a bigness of character — a willingness to reach out to competitors or rivals? Can you show a principled approach to leadership? Can you discuss a time when you told a joke to score points and release tension, and then turned the tide toward your point of view?