MIT – Sloan School of Management Sample Essay on Leadership
Prompt: Describe a situation where you introduced and/or managed change in an organization. How do you expect the Sloan School to further the development of these attributes?
Five months ago, I had a unique opportunity to apply and refine my leadership and communications skills. I spearheaded a strategic re-positioning in our investment consulting startup by leading the development and implementation of a business improvement plan, which increased our monthly revenue by 40%.
This June, we had great difficulty in increasing our revenue. To survive the competition, the management started a discussion on how to improve our products. Since the decision resulting from that discussion would determine the fate of our company, we argued over three proposals for three weeks but failed to reach a consensus. These unproductive meetings were detrimental to both our revenue and our morale.
I took the initiative in resolving this impasse by changing the way we conducted our discussions. In reviewing how to enhance meeting efficiency, I found that, since we were operating in a totally untapped market with virtually no available data, managers did not share a common understanding of the market. Moreover, they often argued out of intuition instead of systematic fact analysis. Realizing this, I talked with our vice president in charge of sales and convinced him to compile a market-understanding document with facts collected from our sale team and other sources, including industry executives. Once we had constructed this solid fact base, the discussions became much more focused and finally began to move forward.
Over the following five days, I led the meetings to reach a conclusion that not only everyone agreed upon, but that also gave everyone involved a sense of ownership. After reminding my colleagues that we shared significant common interests and that a delayed agreement meant disaster to everyone, I set up a rule that we use out time more constructively — that is, contributing to a proposal instead of criticizing it. This way, colleagues were motivated to work for a better plan rather than against something not feasible. By the fifth day, we were able to develop a fourth plan aimed at strengthening after-sales service and adding offline products. The plan combined the key points of the three proposals we had been discussing, and — more importantly — it incorporated contributions by virtually everyone.
In implementing the plan, I set up a Customer Service Department to provide clients with better after-sales service, and I motivated our sales colleagues to coordinate with the newly founded department. At first, although the sales followed the order, I frequently heard from them that their incremental work would cost them time without increasing their revenue. I talked with our five senior account managers one by one, carefully explaining my analysis and persuading them that adding more service would actually increase their revenue. Such communication greatly facilitated the work of the new department. To my happy surprise, some managers even worked out their own service measure and were eager to share it with others. Two months later, I heard from our customers that our new service style was the reason they recommended us to potential customers. In addition, thanks to the plan our sales jumped by 40% after the first month of implementation. As our revenue soared, so did our morale.
Through this experience, I acquired a deeper understanding of how critical leadership and communication skills are to leading an organization, be it my startup or my future M&A business. I also realized that, in order to influence people, I must master the key elements of leadership, build a vision, and align a system. As a manager, it is imperative to lead an organization first by utilizing all possible resources to define a feasible goal. In the future, when I launch my own company in China’s unexplored M&A market, I will prioritize the task of designing a realistic yet ambitious plan and an effective management system, thereby maximizing the staff’s collective effort towards our shared goal.
The experience of reshaping our meetings and setting up a new department also reinforced my belief that effective communication is the best way to motivate people. I was able to lead my peers in reaching an agreement because I made each person involved feel that he or she was a partial “owner” of the agreement. In implementing a customer service system, I could have forced every manager to obey orders without giving any reason. But that would be far less effective than showing them why the new system would benefit everyone. Likewise, in developing my future M&A business, I will draw on this ability to remind my colleagues that we are in the same boat together, and that everyone is expected to row. I firmly believe that acceptance of this concept by employees is itself a huge management success.
I have no doubt that, apart from strengthening my analytical skills and knowledge of management, a Sloan education will greatly enhance my communication and leadership skills. This is all the more important because, when I return to my native China to launch my M&A company, I will find myself in a largely unexplored and highly volatile environment that requires both innovation and adaptability. I believe that these qualities are best enhanced through a curriculum that emphasizes teamwork.
Through conversations with Sloan alumni and through my research, I have realized the benefits of Sloan’s focus on teamwork. This is precisely the type of environment I am looking for in an MBA program. Through intensive teamwork, I will gain exposure to new management practices and other real-world applications, and I will simultaneously benefit from my professors’ and peers’ diverse experiences. Moreover, since I believe that education is not confined to the classroom, I am particularly enthusiastic about joining extracurricular organizations such as Student Investors Association and Future Venture Capitalists. Through the close interaction with classmates, scholars, and industry leaders that these clubs provide, I will both optimize the lessons learned in class and practice my communication and leadership skills. In sum, Sloan will provide me with a rigorous and well-balanced education, preparing me to undertake my ambitious plan of becoming a pioneer in China’s M&A market.