Take a moment and think about the leaders you'd like to work for - what are the characteristics you most admire in them and why? I ask this question several hundred times a year during the interviews I conduct with MBA candidates around the world. How would you answer this question? What are the qualities that turn a good leader into a great leader?
The answers I receive typically have nothing to do with technical capability or even business smarts. Candidates point to the way their manager handled stressful situations or difficult employees. The words, 'Soft Skills' are often used to describe what the qualities they most admire. Soft skills are like the black box essential leadership qualities - you know the box exists, but can't exactly name what's inside it. One of the key components of an MBA is helping candidates to open the box and peer inside to understand the characteristics required to become a successful leader.
The concept of Emotional Intelligence (EI), or the ability to identify and manage your own emotions an the emotions of others, has increasingly become a core part of MBA programs around the world, including Rotterdam School of Management, Erasmus University (RSM).
The concept revolves around five main pillars:
Self-awareness - Understanding one's own strengths and weaknesses, as well as how to act accordingly.
Self-regulation - Ability to restrain and to control their feelings and emotions appropriately for different situations.
Self-Motivation - Passion to work for internal reasons that go beyond money and status
Empathy - Capacity to understand the emotional makeup of other people.
Social skills - Proficiency in managing relationships and building networks.
It might surprise you to learn that the 20 core skills that employers seek in MBA graduates today, 17 are soft or inter-personal skills. For this reason, we devote a significant amount of time in the program to help candidates develop the skills needed for successfully leading teams. From reflection essays to personal coaching, we designed our program to provide the candidates multiple opportunities to grow and explore as an individual and a leader.
When we evaluate candidates for our MBA programs, we consider academic records, work experience and test scores, but we also heavily consider their level of emotional intelligence. Can they reflect on their actions? Identify areas of personal growth? Are they able to show empathy towards their colleagues? We ask ourselves these questions during the evaluation process and the answers weigh heavily in candidate selection.
It's important to remember that when you are leader, you are leading people, each of whom has hopes, vulnerabilities and aspirations. Your job should be to draw out the best in each of your team and yourself. But before you can bring out the best in others, you must work on bringing out the best in yourself. By taking the time to focus on yourself during an MBA program, you are setting yourself up for a successful future in a leadership position.