June 14, 2018

Northwestern Kellogg School of Management MBA Essay 1

Northwestern Kellogg

Kellogg MBA Essay 1

Kellogg’s purpose is to educate, equip & inspire brave leaders who create lasting value. Tell us about a time you have demonstrated leadership and created lasting value. What challenges did you face, and what did you learn? (450 words)

This is a tricky one. Created lasting value? First of all, that’s some serious sh*t. Second, how would you know if you actually created lasting value? It’s one thing to think that that’s the case. It’s another thing for it to be true, persistently. First thing’s first, we need to identify our story before we do anything else…

Creating lasting value implies bringing something new to the table. You changed a company’s algorithm for hiring: previously they’d focused on X, you inspired them instead to focus on Y. Or, you pursued a growth opportunity no one had ever considered before. It worked, and now it’s a stable and NEW source of revenue. There are a million versions. Whatever it is that you did … it can’t have been in the job description. It can’t have been something that was expected of you. It has to be something YOU brought to the table in a somehow surprising way. Think of your best few examples of that. That’s a good starting point.

Now, let’s talk about how you LED the thing. This particular leadership example requires proactively doing something that otherwise wouldn’t have happened. What were the stakes? What obstacles stood in your way? Why was it difficult? What were your personal risks? What propelled your forward in SPITE of those challenges? What were you hoping to achieve? Take us through your actions, bringing us into your thought process along the way. Let’s see how your gears work.

Finally, what did you learn during all of this? Did everything work out as expected? Congrats… you didn’t learn anything. There must have been twists. An instance when you were WRONG. An instance when you made a bad call. An instance when a certain challenge was HARDER than you expected it would be. An aspect of yourself that you had rated too highly, or not highly enough. Something that bumped along the way. Take us through the “before” and “after” here. Somewhere inside that delta of where you landed AFTER this experience should have POSITIVE implications for your NEXT leadership adventure. If you have an example, even better. If not, throw it into the future regardless, forecasting how you’ll APPLY some of the lessons learned here.


Part I – Setup the Situation. Explain the status quo you were hoping to disrupt. Or the boss’s directive. Whatever it was that led to your stepping into a leadership role and ultimately delivering something cool and NEW to the table. Set it up by explaining what the goal was, what the challenges were, why it was important, and what you stood to gain or lose. End this section laying out what would be required for “someone” to step in and lead this thing to success. (100 words)

Part II – Explain the leadership stuff. Take us through the “what you did” piece, step by step, decision by decision. Conflict to conflict. Inner debate, weighing options, eventual decisions. All of it. Lay it all out. (125 words)

Part III – How did this create lasting value? Now comes the tricky part. Where’s the evidence that this “was bigger than you,” and actually fundamentally changed things? First we need to learn of this in some verifiable way other than “you think it created value.” How did you come to learn of it? Walk us through that, and then explain in plain terms what that value actually means. It’s important to do this in the simplest of terms we can understand. (100-125 words)

Part IV – Wha’d Ya Learn? This is reflection time. Time to expose some of those bumps, bad calls, or incorrect assumptions. It doesn’t have to be “bad” but something that convincingly outs you as a REFLECTIVE individual. Put yourself on trial here, throw yourself under the microscope. Make a case for why the version of you at the END of this experience is better than the person at its BEGINNING. Try to wrap your mind around that… Something shifted along the way to IMPROVE you. What was it? Take your time to identify what those things might have been, and try to articulate it all as simply and clearly as you possibly can here. (100-125 words)

Now that we’ve handled that, on to Essay 2.

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