This week BusinessWeek published a special report on MBAs coming from the military: the challenges they face in b-school and the benefits they offer their classmates, their schools, and their future employers.
Don’t think, "I’ve never been in the military. I’ll skip this post and these articles." The articles have lessons for all MBA applicants, at least those of you trying to demonstrate leadership. And that should be all of you.
Of broadest interest is "Veterans with the Right Stuff," in which executive recruiter Al Chase writes about the strengths of vets in the job market, specifically their leadership skills. Note how he breaks down leadership, an umbrella term if there ever was one.
"Under the broad banner of leadership I see specific strengths: strategic vision, commitment to the mission, accountability, integrity, flexibility, interpersonal skills, communication skills, and a commitment to equip and empower their teams to achieve excellence. A good officer needs to be comfortable throwing on some camouflage paint to lead his enlisted troops on a mission to neutralize a group of bad guys hiding out in Fallujah. He needs to be equally comfortable standing before the commanding officer in the Tactical Operations Center to report on the results of that mission. That kind of flexibility is rare in the business world, and it is part of what makes military officers with MBAs such a prized commodity."
OK. So you didn’t neutralize a group of bad guys in Fallujah. When have you worked closely with subordinates and superiors to achieve a goal? When have you set a vision and helped your team pursue it? When have you communicated with diverse stakeholders? How can you demonstrate your effectiveness?
Probably you can’t demonstrate the responsibility shouldered by a man or woman coming from the military officer corps, but these articles give you multiple clues as to the subsets of leadership you want to reveal in your essays even if you never touched an AK-47.