How to Gain Leadership Experience Before Your MBA Program

When applying to business school, there are certain boxes you need to check off to demonstrate why you are an excellent candidate. Admissions committees are looking for transferrable skills and examples of using these skills that demonstrate your ability to succeed in the future. Your GPA, transcripts, and GRE or GMAT scores show that you can handle the work in the classroom. Your recommendations show that you can build the professional relationships you need in your career. And your essays show that you know what you want to achieve through an MBA program. But what about leadership? How can you gain leadership experience before your MBA program? If you haven’t accomplished something amazing, like conducting a symphony orchestra or directing a mission to Mars, it may seem impossible to write a great resume for your business school application. There are many measures you can take, but here are three simple ways to gain leadership experience before your MBA program.  

Launch a project at work

Besides performing your best at work and earning a promotion, how can you show you are a leader at your company? One way is to propose a new revenue generator, either from future or existing clients. This initiative conveys to the management of your organization that you are a forward-thinking professional committed to increasing your company’s success. Additionally, you could suggest an internal program, like pulling together the collective knowledge of your fellow team members to streamline staff recruitment, or implementing an employee development series to increase staff retention. Executing even a small venture at your place of business can show an admissions committees that you have the drive to succeed in an MBA program.


Your job is not the only place you can put your leadership skills into action. Participating in extracurricular activities can provide opportunities for you to manage and persuade other individuals. Coach in a youth basketball league. Chair a philanthropic committee for a cause that holds significance for you. Campaign for a seat on your city’s council – or, run someone else’s campaign.

Along with finding new ways to get involved with your community, take a look at how you have already made a contribution to those around you. Relate your previous leadership experience in college or in your current career to the future leadership goals you have for your MBA program. Did you hold positions in organizations during your undergraduate years? Do you currently work on the alumni board of your college or high school? Show how you would be similarly committed to your business school after graduation. Discuss your interest in the school’s existing clubs or propose new projects you would like to launch. Your plans should be based specifically on your research of your target MBA program.

Lead your own organization

Instead of contributing to your community through an existing association, start your own. For instance, create a group on based on your interests. Start a professional organization, possibly with an MBA theme. Organize a regular trivia night that benefits a local charity. It’s a great way to develop leadership skills and meet new people at the same time.  

You could also start your own business, likewise based on something you enjoy. Entrepreneurship is not for the faint of heart, but its risks can be worth the reward. Whether you’re consulting for executives, instructing graphic design classes, trading commodities, or selling homemade jam online, running your own company can teach you about areas of business you never considered before. It may also set you apart from other MBA applicants who only have experience as business employees, not as business owners.

When looking for ways to demonstrate leadership on your MBA applications, focus not only on your title but also on your actions. What did you do in your position? How did you lead? And, it’s not only about you. How did you harness other people’s energy, skills, and talents to achieve your goals? All business schools, regardless of size, ranking, or location, are looking for students who are ready to become the leaders of tomorrow. Getting into business school is an obstacle you can overcome by selecting and showcasing personal development opportunities that match your interests and objectives—show these schools how you will lead in your MBA program and in your future career.