You are on page 1of 22

SWIM Leadership Case Study

FMC Consultants
Brandon Siu, Fiona Yeung, Albert Lee, Connie Lam, and Anchita

Table of Contents
Executive Summary 1
Problems 1
Weather 1
Lack of Deadlines

Lack of Communication

Lack of Backup Plans 3

No Final Authority



Lea 6



Possible Solutions
Final Decision





Consequences 11
Leadership Styles and Characteristics
Predicted Outcome


Implementation Plan 13
Contingency Plan





Executive Summary
Rachel, Lea and Tarini, the three co-presidents of the SWIM club, began
planning the 3rd annual conference with the help of their directors Janet and
Merrill. But they soon discover that there is a snowstorm approaching the
area and this creates a huge problem for the three co-presidents. Speakers
from around the globe initially agreed to attend but due to the weather,
speakers had to adjust their flight times. Consumers who purchased tickets
began been requesting that the three leaders postpone the conference or
refund the tickets, but the leadership team did not reply to their queries.
Unfortunately, postponing the conference was not an option and if worse
comes to worse; they may have to cancel the entire event, therefore leading
to a net loss.

Possibility of being snowed in due to incoming storm, which leads to

possibly canceling the event

Refunding tickets because of possible cancellation due to weather

problems, which would anger customers

Possibility of venue closure for day of conference due to snow storm


Have backup venue for event in case original venue is unavailable

Outline rules for ticket refunds, such as extreme weather problems like
snow storms

Weather was one of the greatest contributors to the list of problems for
the SWIM leadership team as a snowstorm was approaching Boston during
the time of the conference.
Lack of Deadlines

No specific dates and milestones set

Caused last minute decisions to be made such as impending decision
for closing to be made on Thursday

Committees created later than necessary; earlier creation would have

increased efficiency and provided leadership team with larger team to
work with
Lack of urgency between team members regarding completion of
tasks, resulted in wasted time
Lack of focus on completing tasks as conference was not the top
priority of leadership team because they had internships during the
Lacked discipline about deadlines, communication, and time
No deadlines for formal contracts to be signed by vendors, which could
easily lead to last minute cancellations (Ex: how MIT backed out of
sponsoring alumnae breakfast) which could lead to loss of vendors
No deadlines for formal contracts with corporate sponsors, led to
uncertainty when representatives notified leadership team of their
inability to attend conference


Set deadlines and milestones, and if they are not met, then entire
team helps out
Get formal contracts signed with reimbursements for inconveniencing
them if they cancel their involvement last minute
Solution: sign formal contracts regarding conditions for sponsorship
and procedure and repercussions of cancelling sponsorship

During the summer, the co-presidents and directors were not able to
contact each other due to different time zones, which caused delays to their
decision making process. Thus, many last minute decisions were made. The
team also lacked inspiration and motivation which led to contrasting
priorities. With these contrasting priorities, they wasted time with no formal
contracts or dates being set for the consumers. This caused further confusion
regarding their internal and external communication.
Lack of Communication

Lack of communication with attendees

Lack of communication between team members
Lack of discussion regarding Merrills continued involvement and the
co-presidents left Merrill and Janet to discuss among themselves
regarding their positions and level of involvement
Failure to communicate, such as during the summer when they were in
different time zones, which made communication and check-ins
difficult. They also did not respond quickly to email.

Did not effectively communicate about taking on another director to

replace Merrill, leaving heavy burden on Janet
Didnt understand service above self as there was no trust and
confidence between team members and consumers opinions were
Did not take past organizers advice into consideration for planning
They were not fully invested as they took summer internships when
they could have been planning, did not support their team or mentor
and coach them along the way, didnt show that they cared for their
team) Resulting in the failure of the event
Could not adapt their methods to situation at hand as they were more
focused on dictating tasks and being the boss than collaborating with
their team, and were not flexible with their leadership styles
Did not pay attention to the consumer as they did not respond to
emails from consumers, focus on the consumer experience, or
incorporate consumers into their planning initiatives
Did not create a corporate culture because they did not pinpoint their
talents, which could have been used to better the conference and as
attitudes are contagious. Their attitudes were lacking focus, which
allowed their culture to evolve by default by not listening to past years
organizers suggestions


Have one leader that makes decisions about event based on vision
Have team bonding events before planning process to create trust
between team members
Leaders should communicate with directors to figure out tasks and
timelines for changes, with one leader that Merrill should have
reported to update them
Should split roles equally between co-presidents and hire another
director or employ assistants for directors due to Merrill being on leave
from MIT
Learn from others mistakes, such as those of past conferences
leadership team

Self-absorption was the main factor that caused disruption with

communication within the leadership team. To illustrate this, many of the
team members ignored consumers emails, thereby showcasing self-value
over consumer needs. This also caused many mistakes within their roles as
there was a lack of innovation from team members. Instead of using the
participative leadership style, they dictated their own roles and attempted to

lead their own projects. Within this confusion, many decisions were made
without the opinions and approvals of team members.
Lack of Backup Plans

No backup plan, make a backup plan beforehand with possible other

venues to switch to
Lack of speakers led to setback and frantic searches for speakers
Did not consider that past sponsors would not be interested and only
created backup list after uncertainty from previous sponsors
Did not account for possible cancellation of sponsors resulting from
inability to attend event and weather problems
Did not consider that portion of catering is non-refundable, which leads
to losing money, if event is cancelled
Had no plan regarding reduced seating due to additional tickets sold
last minute
Overlooked booking entire building to account for overflow; therefore
room was booked as a classroom for day of event

Create contracts for speakers, which they need completed and
returned by a certain date to finalize their speaker list, that also clearly
state extreme possibilities such as event cancellations
Book entire venue in advance and do not risk having non-conference
people utilizing other rooms on day of conference
With the challenges piling up, the team did not put any thought into backup
plan in case of drastic emergencies. The team later found that a university
classroom within the conference facility was booked for a class on the day of
the conference. Also, though they partnered with various vendors, no formal
contracts were made. This could easily result in a sudden cancellation that
would cause further problems. This problem would have been avoided if the
team could collectively produce innovative ideas to counteract these
challenges, rather than being narrow minded about the situation.
No Final Authority

No single authority for key decision making which led to tension and
trust issues between team members
No vision and though they created a theme for the conference, they
had no set vision or focus for the conference and were unsure about
their roles
Did not show backbone; were not courageous about their decisions as
they did not collaborate with team members, failures dampened their
spirits, and they were unsure if they were doing the right thing

Lack of performance as they were unproven leaders and had no

Main focus of leadership team during summer and winter breaks were
not the conference
Out of sight, out of mind, marketing problems that resulted from no
final authority making decisions about conference details
All members were focused on avoiding conflict with each other over
authority for final decisions
Failed to lead themselves as they did not set deadlines for themselves,
did not communicate with their team, did not share the workload
evenly, and were confused regarding each others roles
No innovation; death by comfort zone; followed last years conference
and were satisfied with the status quo. They didnt add any new ideas
or innovation into the conference, did not lead change, were static

One leader for key decision making and team bonding events to point
everyone in the same direction
Get someone with a vision for the event to be the leader
Commitment contracts for team members that emphasize full
commitment during breaks to finalize conference details
Should address conflicts and attempt to fix them
As been mentioned before, the leadership team was informed about
having an authority to make all final decisions for the conference. Although
this request was ignored, the team chose to lead themselves, which lead to
the contrasting aims of the team members. The team had no vision and
lacked inspiration and spirit. This lead them to them constantly reconsidering
their decisions and led to them avoiding the conflict altogether.


Leadership was an important process in the creation of the SWIMs third

annual conference. However, the leadership of the co-presidents lacked
efficiency and resulted in many event planning problems. The co-presidents
based their goals almost identically on 2012s conference instead of
developing ideas for a more successful and creative event. They could have

avoided this if the co-presidents acted as visionaries towards their

conference team and provided them with a clear direction for the event.

Visionary/authoritative so that employees have a vision and clear

direction for their tasks and are motivated to perform tasks. Where
leader articulate where theyre going, but not how theyre going to get

The manager maintains; the leader develops., the co-presidents

focused on maintaining the event from last year, rather than
innovating and developing it

Did not look ahead or prioritize

Micromanaged the directors and their individual teams


Rachel was the chief financial officer who needed to find adequate
funding from sponsors for the event. In order to achieve the goal set out, she
assembled a team of first year MBA students who contacted companies for
sponsorship. Rachels leadership style fell under three categories which are
coaching, affiliative, and democratic which are described below. However,
through these types of leaderships, Rachel did not lead the team smoothly.
She was short-sighted to only achieving the bare-minimum. For her to be a
better leader, she should have acted as a visionary so the students were
motivated to achieve higher goals than last years event.



Drafting promotional material for potential sponsors with summary of

2012 conference, 2013 vision, information on sponsorship benefits

Reaching out to past sponsors for possible sponsorship again

Managed first year student committee to help brainstorm list of new

sponsor organizations, reach out to network of contacts

Leadership style used:


Coaching (taught first year committee which helped in getting


Affiliative (working with other members, giving them a task and

letting them do work on their own based on their strengths)

Democratic (asked first year MBA students on their thoughts on

obtaining sponsors)

What she did well: Asked for input from first year MBA students

Why Rachel was a bad leader:

Death by comfort zone She focused on survival rather than

growth for event

Did not envision past the last years accomplishments, which

resulted in being behind in their schedule to find new sponsors

The manager has his or her eye always on the bottom line; the
leaders eye is on the horizon. she always focused on making
sure they werent in the negative rather than focusing on their
overall goals

Did not communicate enough with her team and sponsors

resulting in slow progress and minimally meeting the fundraising
goal at the end

Did not create a corporate culture in which she and the first
year students had to meet certain goals on a specific date

Leadership style Rachel should have used:

Visionary/Authoritative (Would have been able to see a vision of

success that would have helped guide the sponsorship team to
reach higher goals)

Leadership style Rachel should use now:


Visionary/Authoritative (In current situations of whether to

continue the event or not, it is best to set out goals and tasks
when the decision has been made so each person has a direct
goal to accomplish)


Lea was the chief operating officer who was responsible for arranging
vendors at the SWIM conference. She accomplished her objectives by
arranging a team that searched for vendor management. Her leadership fell
under democratic, coaching, and affiliative leadership types which are
described below. Like her co-presidents, unfortunately, she faced many
problems that came to occur because of the decisions she made as a leader.
She should have favored a more authoritative leadership with due dates so
her team could have a clear and focused vision on how to arrange the event.



Overseeing team that overlooks vendor management (catering,

facilities, custodial services, security, furniture rental, audio-visual
needs, lightning, videography), day-of logistics management,
preparation for VIP dinner

Building new relationships with vendors and planning the budget due
to change in VIP dinner location from 2012

Adjusting preparations for classroom booked in same building

Contacting MIT Sloan administration regarding hosting alumnae


Soliciting in-kind donations from local stores

What she did well: Created a team to help in vendor management

Leadership style used:

Democratic (Arranged a team that decided what to arrange at

the event as a group)

Coaching (Taught operations team and helped together to find


Affiliative (Invited those who helped setting up event were

invited to the VIP dinner)

Why Lea was a bad leader/what she did wrong:


Lacked focus and had problems prioritizing

(no formal contracts, only got word consents which

could/were broken at last minute arrangements)

The event regarding committed vendors should have been

dealt with before arrangements with VIP dinner and
Alumnae breakfast. (get the basics down before adding
onto it.)

She did not have a vision of how the event would look in the end
so could not lead self or others well

Did not communicate well with co-presidents, her team, and the

Leadership style Lea should have used:


Authoritative/Visionary (Would have been more clear on how the

event would occur and backup plans could have been made if
they were ahead of their schedules, instead of cramming)

Pace Setting (Would have lessened the rush in the end to arrange
vendors if she set due dates)

Leadership style Lea should use now:


Authoritative/Visionary (One of the best ways to get the

event(full day or half day) to be as successful as possible is to
give the team a clear direction of what should be happening on
the day of the event and how they can achieve this goal.


Tarini was the chief marketing officer who was responsible for selling
tickets and spreading the word of the SWIM conference. She achieved her
goals by reaching out to social media and many other sources that would be
interested in the SWIM conference. Her leadership type revolved around
coaching her committee on how to approach and sell the events ticket.
However, due to the slow progress from the speaker recruitment and the lack
of vision in each leader, marketing was difficult and Tarini was too emotional.
To resolve her leadership problem, she should have created her own vision of
how the event would turn out and marketed it this way with her team.


Marketing (including ticket sales)

Increasing past years marketing campaign to include social media,

outreach to other schools, mailing lists targeting professionals

Revamping promotional material whenever new speaker was added

Released additional tickets before the event due to possible low

attendance resulting from weather issues

What she did well:

Was able to lead her team to launch an aggressive social media

campaign to many people in December.

Able to lead a team to market without a complete list of


Leadership style used:


Why Tarini was a bad leader:


Allowed emotions to come up, which may have caused tensions

in entire team (Example: I dont even know why the current
attendees are buying tickets. Right now, Im just selling air.)
(Example: the fear of a half-empty event continued to grow)

Leadership style Tarini should have used:


Coaching (Worked with a team and guided team to sell/market


Visionary/Authoritative (By having a vision, spreading the vision

with the marketing team can attract more people to come, which
would ease the stress of not being able to sell every ticket)

Leadership style Tarini should use now:



Tarini should present a vision of what she would like to see

the marketing team do if the event were to go on or not.

Provide a clear way on how to contact people who would

be attending the event if cancelled or not cancelled.


Janet was responsible for finding speakers for the event alongside Merrill.
The style of leadership Janet mainly utilized was affiliative and pacesetting.

Unfortunately, she did not constantly communicate with Merrill. She was a
leader who could not lead herself. In order to be able to accomplish her
goals, she should have acted as an authoritative and coaching leader
because the panels needed a vision and they needed to know how to get
speakers successfully. During the decision making process of whether the
event should happen or not, it was essential that she became a visionary so
that the teams could efficiently arrange plans in a focused manner.

Oversee content of conference

Select theme and speakers

Masters of ceremonies for event

Recruiting keynotes and panelists

Coordinating panel teams for panelist recruitment

What she did well: Managed to arrange keynote speakers with a team

Leadership style used:




Tried to keep a positive atmosphere even when Merrill left

to keep the panel teams working at their best.

Created due dates that were supposed to be met.

Why Janet was a bad leader:


Janet and Merrill fell behind in the summer on getting keynote

speakers so the panel teams had no example to follow.

By using affiliation, may not increase the performance of her


Did not create a backup plan if one of the keynote speakers

cancelled. (would reduce the amount of stress and scrambling)

No communication between Janet and Merrill at many points

(worked practically individually to find speakers)

Looked ahead to achieve sub-objectives but did not prioritize

(resulted in falling behind)

Leadership style Janet should have used:


Authoritative/Visionary (Create a vision of the speakers for the

event in reasonable time frames that can actually be met with
their teams together)

Coaching (The panels were having troubles finding with speakers

so Janet should know how to get speakers and teach how to the
panel teams)

Leadership style Janet should use now:


Authoritative/Visionary (By setting a clear objective for the team,

the team can arrange speakers to the event efficiently)


Merrill was responsible of getting speakers for the event with Janet.
However, her lack of commitment to organizing the speaker recruiting panel
demonstrated poor leadership skills. She did well in helping Janet to confirm
speakers. But other than this, she did not fully commit to the SWIM
conference and left the majority of the work for Janet. Her lack of
accountability shows that Merrill did not deserve the position, but the SWIM
team did not have any alternate options. So, the leadership she could have
taken if she was to stay committed and become successful was to have an
authoritative leadership style. Through this type of leadership she could
motivate the panels in a clear vision to achieving speakers at a consistent

Oversee content of conference

Select theme and speakers

Masters of ceremonies for event

Recruiting keynotes and panelists

What she did well:


Partnered with Janet in organizing speakers just before event will

take place.

Leadership style used:



Worked with Janet and committee to get sponsors.

Why Merrill was a bad leader:


Took leave in the middle of preparations for the event but still
wanted to be a co-president afar.

Was not accountable for her work (took leave and gave workload
to Janet)

Did not communicate with her partner, Janet, in finding keynote


Leadership style Merrill should have used and should use now:

Authoritative/Visionary (Should have given a vision to the panels

when took leave and just before the event, should help organize
and set a focus for the committee to do when decision is made)

Possible Solutions

Cancel the event before 2PM


Would lose only $3000 because that is the deposit for the catering
No safety hazards for attendees as event is cancelled and snowstorm
will not affect health
Do not have to pay for setup
Guarantee of avoiding the snowstorm


No chance to reschedule event

Would have to refund tickets
Unsure what part of $13000 for catering services is refundable
Would lose sponsors as event will not take place
Will affect their plans after graduation as their success/failure will
affect decisions of recruiters
Ruins MIT Sloans reputation with events, sponsors, vendors, and
Will lose credibility within MIT Sloan

Wait Till Thursday night


Would have clearer info regarding their plans

Possibility of full day conference taking place if MIT is stays open on
High risk but high reward because it is risky to decide it last minute,
but if the event goes on, then theres no need for ticket refunds or
cancellation fees


Would need to find accommodation for speakers

High risk but high reward because it is risky to decide it last minute
and if MIT
Unsure of recoverable amount if final decision is last minute
Attendees have less time to switch plans if event is cancelled

Final Decision
Half Day Conference

Give 25% of ticket price back to attendees because they are not
getting the full value of their ticket, but are still provided with half day
event and catered food
Mail out the ticket refunds, ask email recipients for mailing addresses
Food served during registration which will be 30 minutes as schedule is
being adjusted
o Gave $3000 as deposit and for half day solution SWIM would be
paying mostly for the service
o Pay entire amount for perishables
o Pay half the cost of labor for half day conference as event is
running for half the time than originally planned


Follows theme of their conference which is Dare to Fail: Taking Risks

When It Matters Most because they are having the event when a
snowstorm may occur
They are thinking of their consumers first as consumers would get to
leave before snowstorm hits and while getting some of their moneys
Best managers are consistent with their behavior because people like
predictability and they emailed attendees on Wednesday night stating
We are very excited to welcome you and our fabulous speakers to MIT
on Friday morning snow or shine.
Show come backbone because they are making a tough decision and
should break from the norm while keeping to their core values of taking
risks when it matters most
Other decisions will have larger repercussions for sponsors as well as a
bigger significance of failure for our leadership team


Some safety hazards may occur due to weather problems, example:

attendee falls on ice and fractures body parts
Would need to find accommodation for speakers as flying out after
snowstorm hits would not be possible
Tarnishes their reputation because they are cutting down their
conference due to weather problems

Leadership Styles and Characteristics


Directive when:
o Dealing sponsors and informing them about changes because
deviations from PR statement and set info are risky as they could
damage SWIMs reputation with sponsors
Pacesetting and affiliative when:
o Dealing with committee members because they are experts as
they have completed their BBA and are highly motivated
because otherwise they wouldnt be on the committee
o Committee members do not need a lot of direction because they
have been helping her throughout the process


Affiliative and pacesetting when:

o Dealing with day of logistical management because main
objective is accomplishing the task with high standard of
o Where shes managing people who could help her with better
solutions than the logistical adjustments she made
Directive when:
o Discussing with caterers regarding changes to half day
conference plan because deviations are risky and could damage
o Bringing up ideas regarding paying for half day labor, rather than
full day because both parties have to be on the same page and
have mutual agreement regarding changes


Visionary when:
o Trying to get voice and vision of company across to consumers
and potential investors for following years because it shows them
a clear direction for the upcoming years and because the
conference needs a new direction regarding their work habits
Directive when:
o Dealing with PR regarding informing consumers regarding
changes to conference because deviations are risky and could
damage their reputation


Best leaders are consistent with their behavior, maintain consistence

with previous messages sent to attendees regarding event happening
snow or shine
Visionary because the conference needs a vision for adjusted plans
because they need to motivate their teams while aligning their
organization around a clear vision
Real leaders are accountable, they need to accept responsibility for
failures resulting from their decisions and be accountable to their
Show some backbone, they need to be courageous and break from
the norm, while cutting their losses, and making the tough decisions.
Their actions would need to remain true to the core values and theme
of the conference
Affiliative and pacesetting because it creates harmony and strengthens
communication between team members and sets high standards for
team and works towards them

Predicted Outcome

Snowstorm hits at 12:00PM

Get satisfactory reviews from conference attendees and sponsors
regarding event planning and implementation
Some attendees may be upset regarding half day conference because
they are not receiving their full moneys worth and event is not being
Caterers agree with decisions as their employees will also be finished
work early and will avoid snowstorm and therefore will create strong
bonds for future conferences and events

Implementation Plan

Refer to Exhibit 1 to implement new altered schedule for half day

Contact sponsors regarding changes to plan and explain situation at
hand to increase their understanding of decision process
Contact caterers to discuss financial changes resulting from half day
Contact attendees via email on Thursday night informing them of
changes to half day conference in case of snowstorm
Hire snow contractors for day of in case of heavy snow that would
jeopardize safety of consumers and employees
Arrange accommodation for speakers as flying out during snowstorm is
not possible
Set up registration at entrance in efficient manner to increase flow of
consumers coming in
Contact speakers regarding changes to half day conference and
explain situation while explaining changes to their presentation time
Inform MIT about decision to hold half day conference and discuss
repercussions with them regarding financials, possibility of MIT closure,
and damage to credibility

Contingency Plan
Hire snow cleaning contractors to clear out path for attendees which
would minimize safety hazards
Evacuation plan for the day of the conference just in case the snow
storm hits early.
Shuttle busses for people at the end of the day just in case some
people do not have a way out of the venue with the snow coming
Secure emergency food and water rations in case employees get
snowed in

In conclusion, if the SWIM MIT leadership team implements our

solution, they will be following the theme of their conference Dare to Fail:
Taking Risks When It Matters Most. They will also be considerate of their
consumers by providing them with a shortened event that allows time for
transportation before the storm is expected to arrive. Their behavior will be
consistent with their previous messages and show their courage through
making a tough decision regarding taking risks when it matters most. Their
relationships with their vendors, sponsors, MIT staff, and speakers will also
be strengthened as they are not pulling out last minute and incurring extra
costs. Through the half day conference, the SWIM MIT leadership team will
be showcasing their leadership skills, critical thinking, and dedication to their
event and consumers.

Exhibit 1: Edited Agenda For Half-Day Conference
7:40AM 7:50AM

Registration Opens

7:50AM 8:20AM

Introduction by MIT Sloan Dean Schmittlein

Fireside Chat: Maria Cirino (.406 Ventures)

8:20AM 9:00AM

Spotlight: Leadership and Gender: Does it Matter?

Nancie Fernandez (Deloitte), Julia Hu (Lark Technologies), and
Martha Samuelson (Analysis Group)

9:00AM 9:30AM

Simultaneous Case Studies

9:30AM 10:00AM

Networking Brunch

10:00AM 10:30AM

Fireside Chat: Sandie OConnor ( JP Morgan Chase)

Moderated by Shari Losseberg ( MIT Sloan )

10:30AM 11:10AM

Spotlight: The F-Word: Alison Gerlach, Catharina Lavers

Mallet (, and Julie Sygiel (Dear Kate), Moderated by
Christina Chase (MIT Sloan)

11:10AM 11:40AM

Closing Keynote Speaker: Maura ONeill (USAID)