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I am working on some Grad program applications and one prompt is:

"Please describe any leadership experience you may have had (250 words max)"

I do have some- in undergrad I was an Orientation Leader, secretary of a large student organization, went to a few leadership conferences. However, I don't really label myself a leader. I can certainly work effectively within a group, and I tend to play a specific role in group dynamics. The example that comes to mind is when I recently served on a jury. I wasn't elected Foreperson (so I wasn't the leader), but I was the "organizer" of the group. I was the one who said, "Ok, we need to elect a foreperson." I kept track of the conversation, took note of details, made sure everyone got to speak. In my current job, I am not a manager or shift leader, but I am one of the point people for training staff on new procedures and I handle our ever-growing list of shoplifters and other suspicious customers, making sure everyone gets clear, succinct information on who to look out for.

On a more general note, do programs really want to fill up with "leaders?" Wouldn't that be like some sports team hiring all the most expensive star players and ending up with a losing record because they aren't working as a team? I'm just picturing horrific failure because everyone thinks they're hot stuff and the group dynamic is totally off. The program should pick me because I fulfill an important role in any group, and NOT the role of leader.

My question is this: do I try to get this point across in my 250 word statement, or should I just suck it up and tell them how I'm a leader?

Edited by petitepixie
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I would say that you've just described how you were a leader. You make sure that everyone knows what they're doing, you have leadership responsibilities (training and customer relations) and even though you're not a manager, you are recognized as a valuable employee because you were selected for those increased responsibilities. I think that's what they're looking for in "leadership"--not just where you can say "I was in charge" but how you displayed attributes of leadership--organization, keeping people on task and informed, supervision of others, etc. You can say "I made sure X and Y happened so Z could get done/be prevented", without having a title like Foreperson or Shift Supervisor.

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I guess I just balk at the word "leader" because at the leadership conferences I've found people to be smug, arrogant, and, basically, not someone I want to be. I feel much happier describing how I've been a "facilitator" or "organizer" and if that counts for "leadership," great!

Another question: How far back should I go? Should I mention that in high school, I took the initiative to totally re-organize the high school bands' music library? It was a big four year leadership project, but at this point it was also 5-8 years ago.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another question: How far back should I go? Should I mention that in high school, I took the initiative to totally re-organize the high school bands' music library? It was a big four year leadership project, but at this point it was also 5-8 years ago.

I didn't mention anything about my high school experiences, or if I did, I did it sparingly since most of them weren't pertinent to the program (Marching Band, FFA and Model UN)

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  • 4 weeks later...

I have to agree with the above statements, what you have written here shows you have leadership abilities and that you've taken opportunities to use those abilities. I suggest taking what you've written here and use it as a starting point, best of luck!

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