Who are the leaders and why are only them taken to Harvard?
Who are the leaders and why are only them taken to Harvard?


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10 Must-Have Skills for a Harvard University Student


Habit number 7. Leadership

What is leadership, what does it consist of, and why does every decent university or company in the US want to have “leaders” in their ranks?

Leadership takes on different meanings in different contexts. Often leadership is assigned to a person who excels in one area or another. This interpretation refers more to “personal leadership”, which involves managing personal life, setting and achieving personal goals. There are fundamental differences between the concepts of personal leadership and the leadership sought by universities and companies.

Unlike personal leadership, leadership is a process in which a person or group of people unite and mobilize other participants (followers) in order to achieve a common goal. Effective leadership transforms the goals and ambitions of followers, sometimes even their identity, and replaces self-oriented behavior with team thinking. According to this definition, personal accomplishments such as “being the best in class,” “beating the best in sports,” or “beating the sales target” are not examples of leadership, because in such a context there is no human involvement in uniting and leading the team towards a common goal.

Understanding the nuances of the term will allow you to better define the expectations of the admission committee of the university or the future employer, and give more effective examples from previous experience confirming the presence of a particular skill.


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The desire of admissions committees and companies to see leaders in their ranks is understandable. Leadership qualities suggest that a candidate has a dozen other especially attractive qualities:

  • First of all, leaders are usually driven by passion, for which they spare no time and effort, giving themselves completely.
  • In addition, true passion brings up perseverance and firmness of character, which allow you to stand firmly on your feet and move on despite difficulties and failures.
  • Leadership requires vision and strategic thinking in relation to achieving a goal. Building a movement towards the goal as a process in which milestones and deadlines are present is an important component of success, because a passion without a specific plan of action is destined to remain a desire.
  • Moving towards a goal also requires discipline. The ability to self-organize indicates a high level of development of the executive functions of the human brain, which provide a high degree of self-control and the ability to focus on the main thing, without being distracted by multiple temptations and distractions.
  • And of course, the leader unites others around the idea and leads the team towards the goal; he knows how to listen, inspire, unlock potential, communicate effectively, and keep the team highly motivated even in difficult times.

Are all Harvard students leaders? To some extent, it is. Given the diversity of academic disciplines, socio-cultural groups and extracurricular clubs, universities need a leader in every field to ensure a sustainable and diverse development of the entire system, which will be effectively supported by the students themselves. Therefore, if at first glance a student seems quiet and shy, and, in principle, not very talkative, you should not jump to conclusions and think that the selection committee made a mistake. When you learn a little more about how this student spends his extracurricular time, then, for sure, immediately determine what his leadership is. Therefore, when entering university, do not try to show that you have some “fashionable” hobbies, but focus on true interests, within which you are free to lead and lead others.


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One of the favorite questions in entrance essays for all levels of education in top US universities, or in interviews for attractive companies, is asking you to tell us about a situation where you demonstrated leadership qualities. This question belongs to the situational type of questions, which requires the analysis of the desired skill through the prism of a specific life experience. I would recommend always having such a situation in the preparation, because when a candidate suddenly encounters him, he often finds himself in a stupor and / or gives an overly general answer.

Reflecting on your “leadership experience” is a useful exercise to analyze your passions, as well as identify exactly what you are implementing as a leader, bringing the team together. Once you've identified your hobbies, answer the following questions for each:

  • What is the goal of my team?
  • What life situation led you to realize the problem/set a goal?
  • How do you see the way to achieve this goal? What are the main steps to go through?
  • How do you attract a team?
  • How do you organize the work of the team?
  • Give examples of the main difficulties in leading a team towards the goal, what did you do as a leader to overcome these difficulties?
  • What are the main achievements of the team you can highlight?

Answering these questions in the context of a specific leadership experience will allow you to build a detailed story about you as a leader who has goals, thinks strategically, takes responsibility for the team and for the result, knows how to assemble and rally the team, and also overcome difficulties.

These questions apply to any field and in the context of any professional, academic, athletic, extracurricular or other experience. The next time you are asked about your leadership experience, you will know that the fact that you were the best in your class, or the best in the long jump, or perhaps the highest sales in the company, is all about personal achievement, not leadership experience per se.

If you find it difficult to answer the first two questions - then the search for these answers will be a timely and noble goal for the near future!


Author: Evgenia Efremova, Master's student at Harvard University 
and academic director Global Ambassador


 ← Read the article about 6 Habits Read about 8 skills next week→ 


The article uses photos from events from Harvard University, published on the websites www.raiseyourhandtexas.org и https://techcrunch.com 

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