My previous post on defining your fit with Wharton addressed two of the four components of “The Wharton Difference” (Largest Global Network and Culture of Engagement). Here I’ll look at the third component:
Innovative Leadership Learning.
On the Wharton website, the short paragraph introducing this component contains the keys to unlocking its real meaning and import. Let’s look at those keys – literally, the key words and phrases. They reveal the adcom’s core interests and values.
• “You’ll find your leadership style…” Leadership isn’t the pivotal word here, but rather find, which is, unsurprisingly, the verb, the action word. Of course MBAs are about leadership. But “find” indicates that the adcom wants people who are “in process” – seeking, growing, and changing in response to what they learn.
• “…by participating in unmatched entrepreneurship and leadership activities.” What’s the pivotal word here? Yeah, participating. It means active involvement. The little word by is important too, because it indicates that this participation is the way through which you grow, change (including finding your leadership style).
• “You’ll take risks, try new roles…” Wharton adcom equates risk-taking with action; putting yourself out there; opening up not just intellectually but personally. Wharton’s leadership and entrepreneurship (and other) resources offer avenues for risk-takers to try new roles. And note the word try: you don’t have to follow a straight, smooth path to a goal; the adcom recognizes the growth value in varied experiences, which you internalize and synthesize along the way.
• “…inspire others, and work with peers to shape your experience.” In a word, collaboration. In Wharton’s culture, it’s the magic through which the alchemy of growth happens. The verbs inspire and shape imply deep experience and profound, transforming outcomes. Innovative Leadership Learning clearly is more than “gaining skills” and “building networks”…
Here’s how you can portray the “Innovative Leadership Learning” component to demonstrate fit with Wharton in your application:
• Throughout your essay(s), weave in anecdotes and examples that show you participating, taking risks through collaboration, inspiring others in the process – and growing as a leader as a result. Given the tight word counts, you can even do this within 1-2 sentences, e.g., “When I [did some activity/initiative], it challenged me to [think differently in some way; be specific], which proved valuable when I subsequently [led in a new capacity].
• The Wharton interview process is a natural extension of this component – develop a strategy for portraying these qualities in a way that is natural to you.
• In your resume and application form, mention activities where you took initiative and/or drew others in and/or “stretched” beyond your comfort zone. These won’t be as in-depth as the essays, but they’ll enhance the related points elsewhere in the application.
By Cindy Tokumitsu, author and co-author of numerous ebooks, articles, and special reports, including Why MBA and Best MBA Programs: A Guide to Selecting the Right One. Cindy has advised hundreds of successful applicants in her fifteen years with Accepted.