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Monday Morning Essay Tip: Lead or Led?

A very common mistake we see in mbaMission client essays is the misuse of the verb “lead.” A deeply entrenched and widespread misunderstanding seems to exist as to which spelling connotes present tense versus past tense. One of our consultants even had a client raise his voice to her in passionate defense—of the wrong usage! In case you are not completely confident about this word yourself, we hope this blog post helps clear up the issue for you!

Lead or Led?

  • Lead—verb, present tense, rhymes with “seed”—refers to being engaged in actively and presently guiding others. “In my current position as managing director, I lead a team of six analysts in completing market analysis.”
  • Led—verb, past tense, rhymes with “bed”—refers to the act of having guided others at an earlier time or at some point in the past. “Led” is both the past tense and the past participle of “lead.” “As part of my first job after college, I led two summer interns in a competitive assessment” and “I have led multiple teams of salespeople during my five years at the firm.”

Confusing the spelling and/or pronunciation of this verb’s different tenses is a simple mistake but one that stands out clearly to admissions professionals who have probably seen this verb more times in the past year than most people do in a lifetime! So pay close attention to which is which, and be sure you are using the correct version each time.



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