This is it. We are one month away from graduation. 2 years have flown by very fast. Between travels, parties, small group dinners and oh yes, classes, it is easy to lose track. Track of what? Track of why we chose to do a MBA in the first place. We come in with specific and great goals in mind: build a strong network, made a couple of new life friendships, find a better job, change the world, soul searching, maybe find a partner, you name it. But that did not account for peer pressure and FOMO for some, and the feeling that “it is the last time ever” to try this or that for others, thus modifying priorities. Indeed, those feelings sometimes led to irresponsible decisions, going with the flow, and for some waking up two years after with the sensation that none of those goals have been reached. Party so much we forget to submit job applications. Hangover the day after and forget to join classmates for lunch and build that network. Travel so much we forget to take some alone time to figure out what it is we really want to do with our life. One of my mentors once asked me: “assume you have all the money in the world, what would you want to spend your days doing?”. Hard to find a better way to define soul searching. Those past years were a formidable opportunity for me to learn, reflect, and through a couple of words, share most of what I am taking out of this experience.
Listening skills continue to be underrated.
We live in a world in which appearances matter increasingly more: from who has the biggest…GMAT score, degree to how many twitter followers someone has. Technology has helped us to go from content consumers to content producers. That shifted the attention towards social media and somewhat neglected real life, in which you learn about someone by talking with and listening to them, not reading her tweets or watching her Instagram stories. In our quest to be out there, show what we are worth, fewer importance seems to be given on just listening. In class, we are encouraged to talk more for participation points. In group projects, we are encouraged to share our ideas more, be more assertive. Listening is forgotten. There is an African proverb that says that God gave us one mouth and two ears, and that we should use them in that proportion: listen twice more than we talk. You can only talk about what you already know, while you learn while listening.
Leaders are a lot more insecure than we think.
If business school students are any representative samples of leaders of today and tomorrow, the general definition of leadership is, oh boy, flawed. The same extremely confident guy in the morning, after two glasses of motivational beverages shares with a stranger his deepest fears: he questions everything, is not sure about anything, wants to belong to the “cool” group. There is nothing wrong with that, it is even probably a sane thing to routinely question. What is unnatural is to be that confident and assertive in the morning about what he is not even sure of. What is unnatural is to try to convince others that option X is the one to go with, just for the sake of having his opinion heard and chosen, even if he doubts it. What is unnatural is behaving “in a cool way”, just to be “cool” and fit, even if deeply he hates it. What is unnatural is to be that fake. Luckily, not all students share that trait. Luckily, I am leaving b-school knowing how to recognize those traits, and call out b**shit when I see it.
The best leader treats everyone as his equal.
You might think that getting into b-school resets the scoreboard and has everyone start with the same chances. WROOOONG! We do not all get in with the same savings, level of debt, degree, background. Factually. Those traits shape the type of work and industry we want to work for after b-school. At least for some us, it shapes the type of work and industry we have to work for, more than “want to”. In fact, they shape your entire b-school experience: how many and which type of treks you can participate in, which type of party, and even unfortunately, who you hang out with. Yes, no one wants to be that guy who checks the bill after dinner when everyone else is okay to split evenly 😊. The best leader is the one who despite all those differences, goes out of his way (or just naturally) does not make you feel them. He does not remind you every day that he worked in Private Equity before b-school. He does not invite you to Barclays prime on a daily basis. He does not remind you he is sponsored by his company so does not care about recruiting or how to reimburse his loan. He does not remind you how happy he is in his relationship and his wedding plans. You see where I am going with it: he is never patronizing and is understanding.
Overall, those 2 years for me revolve around one word: demystification. Onward!