These three straightforward questions are comprehensive and wide ranging in effect. They give the Stanford Sloan MiM adcom both factual information about you such as your current work responsibilities, your goals, and details of work experiences, and also insight into your thought process, self-evaluation skills, and ability to synthesize and draw conclusions. The questions reflect the adcom’s interest in admitting people with the requisite experience who are movers-and-shakers in their current context and who will be path-breaking leaders in the future. While no work or page length is specified, the instructions say to “use separate sheets of paper to answer the following questions.”
When I reflect on our many successful Stanford clients, initiative in the face of need is the common thread among them. They are always the ones who revealed, especially in Essay A, that they do not turn away or see a problem or need for action. They grab the initiative when they recognize an opportunity to contribute. They are comfortable expressing emotion and their values, and their actions reflect both, but particularly the latter. Think purpose-driven, principle-driven lives.
Essay 1: Tell us about your current duties and responsibilities, including references to the total number of people you supervise and/or the amount of assets you manage. Describe one or two of your major accomplishments and explain why they are meaningful to you.
In describing duties and responsibilities, focus on those that have a higher level component and/or large scale. Be selective; don’t detail every single thing you are responsible for. Also, do highlight the breadth of your work – include your people management (not just number of reports but their professional levels and scope), strategic role, operational role, key decision-making responsibilities, P&L responsibility, global involvement. In selecting accomplishments, I suggest using two, ideally representing different types of skills/capabilities. At least one should be fairly recent. In describing why they are meaningful to you, avoid generalities like “from this experience I learned how to lead large global teams” – to make this statement meaningful you’d add some words about exactly HOW you DO lead large global teams.
Essay 2: What educational and personal objectives do you hope to satisfy through the Sloan Program? What type and level of work do you expect to be engaged in five years from now?
This essay will show that you are focused and that your objectives align with the program’s offerings. You might start sketching your answer by addressing the last part first (regardless of how you structure your final essay) – clarifying your professional plans for five years hence will reveal development needs both educational and personal. Describing that target role and industry, you will naturally see the challenges of getting from where you are now to that future place and doing it well. These developmental needs create your educational and personal objectives. Finally, discuss in concrete terms how the Sloan program will address them, providing details and examples.
Essay 3: Describe a situation that challenged your leadership skills and explain what you learned about your strengths and weaknesses.
The bulk of this essay should be a straightforward narrative – tell the story of a time when your leadership skills were challenged. In selecting the content, keep in mind the accomplishments you discussed in essay 1 in order to avoid redundancy. This essay provides another opportunity to show you working in an interesting context, dealing with high level and/or high stakes issues, interacting with significant decision makers. Conclude the essay with a frank discussion – don’t focus only on strengths and skim over weaknesses. Show how learning about the stated weakness has helped you by providing a very brief (even one sentence) example of how you’ve applied that learning. Alternatively, you can link the weakness to the objectives in the previous essay.
Deadline: December 15, 2011
Decisions by: mid-January 2012