Leadership

The simplest but most effective marketing strategy

MktgDo you want to know the simplest, but perhaps most effective marketing strategy?

You probably have a lot of potential answers, but I only have one in mind.

You may not want to ask MBAs. MBAs will probably use analysis to give you a good answer.  MBAs will tell you how to size the market.  They may also tell you how to estimate your budget based on lots of numbers. But this usually doesn’t help with getting people to buy what you have.

It might also be risky to involve lawyers. They’ll tell you about all the risk and about all the potential litigation.But you don’t need that skill to be successful.

I propose that the best method to market is simply to care deeply.

I told you it was simple.

In short, care about WHAT you do and more importantly WHY you do it.  Care about the customer. Care about being generous and giving the customer the best experience you can.  And care about the story.  You don’t need a degree to do that, though the experience of getting the degree probably helps you understand others better.  But in many cases emotions, hard work, and a compelling mission will go a long way.

Just a thought.

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From the Archives: Reflecting on the 2010-2011 School Year

gradTo all of those who recently graduated from college and grad schools over the past few weeks, congratulations! What a important accomplishment! I really do believe that Education Matters more than ever in today’s world, as the gap between those with and without a quality education is bigger than ever before.  In the spirit of graduation season and embarking upon new careers,  I wanted to share one of my favorite posts, which comes from the archives.

2010 was an interesting year. Most of us left high-paying banking and consulting jobs and finally decided to return to business school. And what timing! The financial crisis was finally starting to fade and the prospects of recovery left the business world enormously hopeful. At the same time, the nomination of Sally Blount as the first female Dean of Kellogg had just made business news history.  Many of us were excited to be back in the  classroom during such interesting times, especially as we knew the markets were recovering just in time to land our dream jobs at business school.

But one thing we didn’t know is that many of us would also be scrambling in business school. Many of us had to scramble to learn accounting and finance since it was our first time ever taking the classes.  Others of us scrambled to stay awake in DECS and MECN, after spending the night before prepping for upcoming job interviews. And some of us scrambled all year trying to figure out exactly what our dream job was, or if that job even existed.

And so that leads me to the million-dollar question today. The one question that’s been on everyone’s mind since last August. What is the best opportunity to pursue at Kellogg? And what can I do to ensure that I maximize my success?

CLICK HERE to read the full post.

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Friday, July 5th, 2013 Business School, Careers, Leadership No Comments

Risk and Reward

risk-and-rewardRisk is all around us. When we encounter potential failure, we come face to face with it.  And in that moment we have to decide, what are we going to do next?

Fear is the most natural reaction. We are uncertain of the outcome and how that will make us look, especially when the stakes are high. So fear makes us nervous and we decide not to go forward.

On the other hand, risk is inevitable if you are want to do great work. And there’s no better way to do great way than to work on something you care about. Your passion. Your art.

It’s easy to to avoid risk at all costs. That whenever possible you mitigate risks with the products you launch or the people you meet by only taking things that look flawless and where there is no downside.

But there’s just one problem. In almost every single situation, a small increase in risk can double the reward. And where there’s more downside, there is also often upside.

Taking that first step can be impossibly hard. But it’s almost always worth it in the end.

Just a thought.

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Saturday, June 1st, 2013 Leadership No Comments

Say hello

Me and my old roommate Greg went shopping in New York city today. We made a point of saying “hello how are you?” to every single store attendant we saw before asking for help.

I do this very often in Chicago too. More surprising than the fact that nobody else in line seems to do the same, is the fact that employees are always surprised as well. Often times they accidentally interrupt saying “how can I help you” before I can even finish. And sometimes they don’t know how to respond at all.

I propose the idea that each of us should do more of this everyday. Put more value on the human connection. And make people we transact with feel important.

But today’s world makes this more challenging.  In today’s technology driven economy, profit margins are lower and stores need more customers to than ever to make money.  So often times companies prize efficiency over good customer interactions. Likewise, customers today are in a hurry and more demanding than ever. So customers equally forget about the value of spending 20 seconds to speak to someone else.

But that’s just the problem. That’s why customers aren’t loyal. It’s why they don’t go back to your store again. It’s why they won’t go out of their way to support your idea or invest in your business. It’s also why employees can sometimes have really bad days at work. And why demanding customers will rarely get their way.

I propose the idea that both parties should put more value on the human connection. Companies need to balance the importance of efficiency with the value of human contact.  Customers should more time being nice to the people we interact with.

In the end, the interaction will be significantly better for both sides.  Employees will be more willing to help you out.  And you might just make the employee’s day.  All by Saying Hello.

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Sunday, November 25th, 2012 Leadership 4 Comments

Get past the status quo hesitation

That feeling you had just the other day, that’s the one I’m talking about. The hesitation that all of us have felt at some point.  When it seemed so much easier to play it safe and stick with the status quo.

Sometimes it’s a little whisper you hear in your ear.  Other times, a feeling you have in your stomach. The one that asks you: Why change things now? Why risk doing it again? It didn’t work before.  Are you sure you can handle the stress?

But often, this hesitation is all wrong. Too many people hesitating is why we don’t have a critical mass to move the education system forward. It’s why aspiring artists haven’t even started the first line of the screen play they’ve always dreamed of writing.  It’s why most people haven’t made an inch of progress toward the job  that they’ve been wanting for years. Because despite the profound opportunity that’s right in front of them, it’s easier not to do something scary and to stay with the status quo.

Don’t get me wrong, I understand it. I don’t like failure, stress or rejection either.  And I’ve had just as much of it as you have. Even worse, today’s world teaches us to do exactly the opposite.  School teaches us to “do things by the book.” And incentives at work tell you to put your head down and say, “that is not my job.”

On the other hand, it’s only when you decide to try giving it a shot that you have the opportunity find something better.

When a few dozen teachers in Chicago protested the system last month their strikes made noise all across America.  When my good friend Emanuel decided to stop his full time job to work on city issues her cared about, that’s how his campaign for Mayor came together.  When my long-time mentor finally forgot about his (very understandable) setback at work and started being dynamic again, that’s when he became a real leader and today is doing better than he ever imagined. And when you finally decided to say yes to that decision you’ve been putting off … or the decision you may have already said no to, that’s when things finally had the chance to get more interesting.

In short, we all have the natural reaction of hesitating when new things come along.  But often times, things work out a whole lot better when you get past it.

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Wednesday, October 10th, 2012 Business School No Comments

One definition of a leader

A leader is someone that understands the importance of lifting people up in a world where so many things and people are working to tear others down.

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Tuesday, October 2nd, 2012 Leadership No Comments

The perfect match

Despite what they say, one thing everyone thinks of is finding the perfect match. Businesses looking for new customers. Working professionals looking to get into the right MBA program. NBA teams looking to draft a new star player. And anyone looking for that special someone.

That’s why businesses are willing to spend a lot of dollars trying to find the best customers. Because those customers will not only spend a lot of money but also be advocates and refer others customers.

It’s why NBA teams will dish out a few extra million to not only to get the best player but also to get the player that fits in well with the team. It could take a team from mediocre to NBA finals contender in just one season.

It’s why MBA prep programs focus so much on finding the right “fit” schools and careers. Plenty of people have failed out of top schools while others have been profoundly successful at lower ranked schools.

It’s why employees look hard to find the perfect mentor at their firms. Advocates who help them get good work and make it to the top of their careers.

And it’s why people say no to dating dozens of other people and wait on the one they think is a REALLY good catch. Someone who may not even live in their city.

I heard it put in this 3 step framework my marketing class back in my days at Kellogg. You want to find someone who

  1. Likes your strengths
  2. Doesn’t mind your weaknesses, and
  3. Isn’t well-served competitively

So someone that like the things you do well. Doesn’t care so much about the things are you aren’t that good at. And doesn’t have anyone else like you around.

No matter what the context … find these people and improve your odds at success.

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Friday, September 28th, 2012 Careers No Comments

Your friends’ friends

I recently got back from a pre-wedding celebration outside of the US. Not only was the trip fantastic but I also really connected with the people I met on the trip. The whole thing reminded of something really important.

One thing I learned on the trip was the importance of your friends’ friends. Think about: your friends are usually your friends because you have some common interest, either professionally or personally. It’s usually both.

But if you think a bit more, you’d realize that your friend could say the same thing about his or her other friends. This means that it is probably that this person’s friends also have similar interests to you. And in some cases, you’ll have a whole lot in common. Similar interests. Similar stories. And similar criteria for making good friends.

So in some cases, your friends’ friends could make great friends for you too.

In my own recent experience on this trip, I found this to be true. Not only did I like every single person on the trip but I also fond a lot in common with them, despite our differences in location. We had similar friends in common. Went to similar schools. Had similar beliefs not only about careers but also about other non-professional issues.

And when they all came to Chicago this weekend, it was like the trip before never ended. We connected when we saw each other. We caught up on the past few weeks. And at the end of the night we all split off to reconnect again .

And that’s precisely why I’ll be meeting up with two of them again when I travel to the east coast in about a week.

So I propose the idea that it’s important to connect with some of your friends’ friends.

On one hand, you never know who you might meet. On the other hand, you always know that the chances are high that you might have a lot in common.

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Saturday, August 18th, 2012 Leadership No Comments

Dean Blount Welcomes Minority Prospective Students to Kellogg Preview Weekend

Yesterday morning, the new Dean of Kellogg Sally Blount, made an appearance at Kellogg Preview Weekend to welcome the perspective students to campus. Not only was it great for prospectives to meet the dean in person, but it was also inspiring for them to see a woman at the top of the helm, especially at a diversity weekend event.

At the morning of the event, the Kellogg admissions team, led by Deena Williams and student club leaders gathered to watch Sally Blount, as she greeted the students from the podium in the James L. Allen Center.  As entered the room, a certain excited in the audience erupted as prospectives were eager to hear what Blount was going to say.  Blount reciprocated that enthusiasm, by speaking with a high level of energy and enthusiasm.

“I feel a deep sense of honor to come back to the school that I loved so much” the dean mentioned. And “I’m especially grateful to go back to my roots, where I began building my career years ago.”

But the discussion was more about the future than it was the past. Blount said she intends to take Kellogg to next level. And her first order of priority is to do that internationally, not just here in the U.S.  She also wants to help Kellogg continually evolve in terms of its brand.  Admittedly, the brand of Kellogg is already top tier, but she wants to ensure that the perception that people have is accurate. Because Kellogg is not just a marketing school, but it’s a school that focuses on the “markets” not “marketing,” a general management school, and a school that places a heavy emphasis on leadership and teamwork, not only in terms of classroom but also the culture.

What is the culture of Kellogg you ask?  The dean said that it means it’s a place where students collaborate instead of compete and where they roll their sleeves up and really get things done together.

In my view, Kellogg is also one of the best experiences you have to figure out how to be a leader. Because things get really busy and you get challenged every day. So you learn the power that comes from planning. Organizing activities. Setting priorities. Identifying objectives and goals.  And figuring out how to work with other people to reach them. A task that’s definitely easier said than done.

And finally, the Dean also took questions from the audience. She answered questions about the SEEK major and discussed the herd mentality that takes place in business school. She also talked a bit more about school culture and about leadership.

In the end, the dean gave a great introduction to the Kellogg prospective students. Thanks Dean for spending time at Kellogg Preview Weekend!

Related posts on Kellogg Preview Weekend

Click here for my post on Kellogg Preview 2010

Click here for my post on Kellogg Preview 2009

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Sunday, November 7th, 2010 Business School, Diversity, Leadership 1 Comment

Follow Up Or Fail. A Few Thoughts After Conferences in Chicago and NYC

Have you ever sat at home, waiting by the phone for a call, but found that the call never came? Or what about waiting by the computer for an email, but no messages ever made their way to your Inbox?  I have.  In fact, many of us have.  And it’s especially common after seminars and conferences, where people pass out their business cards but never hear back from the people they gave them to. Sounds disappointing, right? Well, wouldn’t it be even more disappointing if you found out that in a majority of those cases, the person on the other side was also disappointed that you didn’t reach out to them?

In my experience this happens all the time. Both parties pass out their business cards with the intention of staying in touch but then neither actually reaches out afterward.  But the good news is that it’s usually not personal. Instead, it’s usually because the other party becomes too busy or is too unorganized, has too many people on their target list, or simply isn’t in the habit of following up with the people that they meet.  And in all fairness, all these reasons make sense.  But are they still actually good excuses for not staying in touch?

On one hand, most of us are subject to far too much information nowadays and so it’s easy to miss sending a couple of emails or following up with some of the people we meet. On the other hand, though, in a world where finding information and being connected is critical, sometimes it makes no sense why you don’t take the extra step to ensure you reach out to someone after meeting them. And so that’s the premise of the title of this article – a phrase dubbed by networking guru Keith Ferrazzi and not me – that following up is the key to success no matter what field you’re in.

My overarching conclusion is that personal contact matters. That’s because at a conference, you’re all there for the purpose of the conference – to hear the speakers, find a new network, meet people to connect with, and speak to employers; in sum, to make personal gains.  For example, at my recent MLT conference in NYC, I was there to meet the new class of fellows, meet a few employers, see a few employers for a second time since I also attended last year, and mingle with staff members of MLT, an organization that I’m highly active in and intend to stay active in.  As a result, I probably gave my card or email address out to dozens of people, if not significantly more.

But that’s just an initial connection, and my belief is that following up afterward is a chance to make it more personal – to reach out to someone you really enjoyed meeting or to an employer you especially liked.  After all, why go through all the hours and trouble of meeting people, and spending significant time with some of them, if you don’t plan to really connect with them afterward?  And that’s especially true if time and organization do become factors, because then people would still tend to reach out to the employers or the people the enjoyed meeting most.

Granted, sometimes it’s easy to follow up when the number of people you meet is low. On the other hand, you’d be surprised not only how many people forget when it is this easy but also how effective following up still is in these situations. And that’s because following up is a personal process, especially when you can reach out in a way that is creative or that jogs their memory. But that can be tough after a mega conference, where memories are abound and where you have too many business cards to be creative with all of them, or to even find all of them in all of your coat pockets.  And this description is similar to what I just had in NYC, where a couple hundred people and dozens of employers showed up to mingle.

But despite the actual numbers, I believe that it’s still important to keep in touch with some of the people you meet.  That idea is validated by dozens of management studies, one by Marshall Goldsmith for example, that discusses the effects of managers who followed up in an organization. The study showed that managers who were seen as not following up were perceived as only slightly more effective as a group than they were eighteen months earlier. On the other hand, those who did some follow-up experienced a very positive shift in scores, and those who had con­sistent follow-up had a dramatic, positive impact.

Fortunately, following up today is much easier in our super-connected world of texting, IMs, emails, and social media.  I personally like to use these mediums to exchange the information that we talked about at the event.  I often tell people I’ll send them URLs of posts here on my website, other URLs, relevant information related to their careers, or introduce them to someone else.  In fact, I’ve got a couple of those lingering after my last MLT conference in NYC.  On the other hand, though, it’s important to remember that, as you exchange information, following up is not about asking someone what they can do for you or what they might know that can help you. Instead it’s about what you can do for them, and what you can do to sustain a relationship with them.

That’s because the best leaders know that building relationships is critical. That none of us can make it to the top alone and instead that we can achieve a lot more working together. This is especially today, where business is more global, technology more complex, and as the economy steers companies to retain fewer employees.  And so leaders must not only be able to focus on the day-to-day problems at their firms, but they must also focus on building the connections and networks to share information more broadly and as a result create more leverage for change. And in the end, I’m optimistic that doing that will help all of us reach our potential to solve some of the world’s biggest business and social problems.

But if that’s true, then I suspect I should stop writing now. I’ve got some emails to send and calls to make, since I just finished two conferences over the past 1.5 weeks.  Check back for more details on my recent MLT conference in NYC.  I’ll share some details of the actual events and meetings with employers.

Stay tuned!

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Wednesday, June 9th, 2010 Leadership, Networking 2 Comments

Day Two of Latino Legacy Weekend

Passion. Storytelling. Leadership. Those are a few of the adjectives that were brought up today when the panels, guests, and speakers talked about changing the game for latino professionals in America today. And they quickly caught everyone’s attention, not only to keep us engaged in the panels today but also to help Latino Legacy Weekend pull off its second act this weekend.

Just minutes ago, we finished our second and final full day here for Latino Legacy Weekend. And as I suggested above, the event was very well executed. Similar to yesterday, the panels were exciting, engaging, and full of great and highly accomplished speakers. Unlike yesterday, though, the panels today were more panel-like, where they were more interactive and also left a more time for Q&A after the presentations, which I personally enjoyed.

In the first panel about political activism, we had a highly accomplished list of legal and political heavyweights, who chimed in on things like passion, leadership and accountability. The topic of storytelling also came up, and a Chicago Super Lawyer, Christine Martini, discussed the importance of a compelling message and telling a good story, especially for someone who may want to take on a political leadership role. In another panel, the speakers talked about the role of Latinos in society today. A current BCG consultant mentioned that it’s not enough to lead by example today, and that we all have to go beyond our comfort zones. They also talked about mobility and sharing information.

I personally liked the panel on children and youth, where we had a highly diverse panel, including a health service professional and DMD, as well as a couple of professors, including one from Stanford who discussed a 15  year test about high school graduation rates. My favorite panel, though, might have been the one on media in a panel later in the day, namely because media is one of my biggest interests, given I maintain my website and contribute to a few others. In some ways, the media panel did a good job summing up the weekend, as they gave a lot of ideas about being vocal and sharing information, learning how to mobilize a campaign, reaching out to more people, and building connections with other leaders in the community. And they talked about all of this in the context of working together as a team, using the example of becoming a “chorus of voices.”

In the end, my experiences at the conference reinforced my belief that teamwork is absolutely critical.  That a team working together can accomplish more than the sum of its parts and that to achieve our highest potential it’s critical that we leverage everyone’s diverse skills and talents to achieve common objectives.  So I’m glad that everyone’s still fired up about the great weekend. I hope that we’ll all stay in touch after the event. And after chatting with a few of my new friends, it sounds like everyone plans to collaborate together on some of the world’s most important issues in the future.

Thanks for reading everyone. And stay tuned for LLW 2011.

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Sunday, May 30th, 2010 Diversity, Leadership 3 Comments

Day One of Latino Legacy Weekend

Many people have good ideas, but few are willing to put themselves on the line for them. Often times they’re afraid of rejection or they fear the hard work it takes to achieve success. And other times, they’re simply afraid of failure, especially when other people are watching.  On the other hand, there are also leaders who create extraordinary results because they are deeply passionate about their cause. These leaders work tirelessly to bring others together and connect them with their mission and to steer their organizations to new heights.  And that passion was not only evident, but also contagious on the first day of Latino Legacy Weekend.

Despite long exhausting travel schedules and work schedules, not to mention sentiments during the current economic crisis, a sense of excitement filled the room from the very first minute at Latino Legacy Weekend. Leaders from every industry filled the room – law, business, finance, public policy, politics, academia, government, and education. It was good to see so many like-minded people together with the mission of “transforming power of ideas and building bridges across professions, ideologies, and regions.” And that certainly happened today across a series of panels, speeches, and collaborative discussions.

In one panel, professionals from California, Texas, and New York talked about challenges in the education space. In another, a Northwestern Professor collaborated with an employee from Goldman Sachs and another professional from Municipal government to talk about immigration. This was especially compelling considering we were at a Latino Conference, and considering that I am originally from Arizona, where immigration is the big issue of the day.

I was on the Business and Finance panel, which came next. Ironically this session was lot less technical than some of the others, despite being the finance section.  One former BCG consultant talked about how important it is to following your passion, while a fellow Stanford grad that I met there talked about finance and public policy. As for me, I gave my pitch about why it’s so important to share information not only with each other but also with the next generation behind us. At the last minutes, I decided to divert quite a bit from the presentation I prepared, not only because my prepared one was a bit long but also because I wanted to talk more from my gut and discuss a topic that I’m passionate about. And in the end, a few of the participants told me that they liked my talk, so I’m glad I decided to change things up.

We also had a panel on Politics and on Corporate America, both of which went well. The common theme between these two is that we need more Latino Leadership in these areas – at the executive level, the board level, and high level political roles. As part of that we talked about the low number of CEOs and about the prospects of a Latino president in America’s future. But we also discussed how that transition will not be easy, and we talked about leadership strategies that we need to keep in mind as we navigate the business and political spheres.

In my view, that’s because public issues are inherently ambiguous. Leaders must weigh tangible issues against intangible principles, account for diverse views and beliefs in the community, anticipate skepticism from just about everyone, and balance all of that to eventually take a stand.  Leadership is less about command and control than it is about bringing people together and building consensus. To do that, leaders must not only understand the complex issues but they must also have a compelling message.

And in the end, day one of the conference was filled with compelling messages and was inspiring. And the night was also fun. We had dinner at Star of Siam, a Thai restaurant in Chicago, and after that had a fun night out.  I look forward to day two of the conference.

Stay tuned !

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Sunday, May 30th, 2010 Diversity, Leadership 3 Comments

Careers Question: Should I Put The Word “Leadership” On My Resume?

Have you ever had the task of hiring someone? Sometimes it can feel impossible right? On your worst day, your dream hire can turn out to have just been a good marketer. Weak problem solving skills, no sense of urgency, and not the leader he or she touted being on their resume. On the other hand, sometimes you just hit the jackpot, and the person quickly engages in the role, quickly gets plugged into everything at the office, and is poised to be a good leader from day one. But the question is, how can you really know from a resume screen exactly which one you are choosing? And how can you tell if they are going to be a good leader?

The reality is that sometimes you can do everything perfectly, and things will still turn out for the worst. This happens all the time in  But assuming a little correlation between the resume and the hiring decision, there’s a typical process that recruiters tend to go through, which is usually pretty effective. And in a recent question I responded to a question on GottaMentor one of the members asked about putting the word leadership on your resume. They specifically wanted to know what the implication were of changing the bottom section of their resumes from “Extracurricular Activities” to “Leadership And Extracurricular.”

I thought it was a good question, not only because it involves putting resumes in the context of pre-MBA or post-MBA jobs but also because it involves a little bit of philosophy on leadership. In any event, I’ve provided my response below. I’ll also note that  lots of interesting questions, just like this one, are asked and responded to every single day. So as I mentioned in a recent post, you might considering taking a look at GottaMentor when you get the chance. For now, though, here’s a sneak peak at one of my responses from the site.

MY RESPONSE

Dear Anonymous,

First off, you hit the nail on the head that leadership is an important consideration in any career you pursue, and as a result any application you submit. As such, you’re right to think that a good company or firm will want to hear more about your past leadership experiences. After all, conventional wisdom suggests that past performance is indicative of future performance.

On one hand, this means that during the recruiting process, companies will want to know as much about your past leadership experiences as possible. On the other hand, though, you may want to be careful about your strategy. While showing leadership on your resume is important, putting the word leadership on your resume – calling out that you have been a leader – may also come off as pretentious, as you suggested. Why? Perhaps here are a few reasons.

1. Because leadership is not a typical section that goes on a resume. If it were, then you would have seen it multiple times on the professional experience section.

2. Also because the word “leadership” is completely overused and misused by just about everyone today. It’s often confused with titles and not sufficiently correlated to influence and results.

3. Also because conventional wisdom suggests that leadership is not about taking credit for the work you’ve done. One of my favorite sayings in the world defines a leader as “One who can motivate his colleagues and get things done without making his teammates feel that it was the leader who had actually got the work done.”

So in my view, the best approach to your resume is not to tell but to demonstrate that you’ve led – that you’ve done some important things in the past, and you have important, specific plans for the future. If you can do that in a way that’s direct and avoids generalities, then during your interview they’ll probably ask you about it. That will give you the real chance to provide them with the real details of your experience, and as such prove that you had a leadership experience.

And so in the end, I would encourage you to shift your thinking from describing what your titles were and telling what you’ve done to describing who you are and what you bring to the table, as evidenced by what you’ve done. Does this distinction make sense?

Ultimately, it’s your decision if you want to make a new title for the section. It’s quite possible that an employer wouldn’t even notice the difference. And in some circumstances, an employer might be drawn in by the word and take a more close look at what you write. But, from my experience, I suspect that most of the top employers, wouldn’t be impressed by the wording change, not only because it’s easy for anyone to put “leadership” on a resume, but also because they probably interview a lot of people with leadership experiences.

I personally, live by Robin Sharma’s motto – you don’t need a title to be a leader. Because of that and because of traditional resume protocol, I don’t use the world leadership on my resume, but chances are that it will not make a difference no matter what you decide, so long as you have substance.

Good luck!

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Thursday, May 27th, 2010 Careers, Leadership 1 Comment

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