Passionate Leadership Can Be Learned
I’ve always said that if you want to learn about leadership talk to someone who has actually led something. James (Jim) Quigley, Global CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu Limited is just such a leader, and the “something” he leads is a global professional services juggernaut with more than $26 Billion in revenue, and 170,000 people located in more than 150 countries worldwide. What I most appreciate about Jim is his almost evangelistic zeal in championing the Deloitte brand. Jim is a fully engaged CEO who leads by example. You’ll also find Jim to be among the most transparent CEOs you’ll encounter. If you don’t believe me just go looking for him – he’s not that hard to find. Jim has a new book out (As One), you can find him on Twitter @DeloitteCEO and Jim is a frequent presenter at conferences such as World Business Forum and the World Economic Forum in Davos. Enough with the background – on with the interview…
What does it take to be a CEO of a global professional services firm, and why should anyone be led by you?
CEOs today need to model and advocate mutual trust between employees and leadership. I believe that successful CEOs will be judged on long-term sustainable performance and the stewardship of their organization’s mission, rather than on short-term performance and results.
One of my main focus areas is to increase my leadership team’s ability to be effective. One way to achieve that is by respecting your people, helping them find their authentic voice and leadership style, and demonstrating a genuine advocacy of their professional development.
It is absolutely critical for leaders to lead by example and foster a culture of values and respect. If I empower my leadership team and instill the organization’s values in them, they in return will do the same with their teams. That’s why I spend a lot of time talking to my partners about culture and our values, and the importance of articulating a clear vision and strategy.
Your new book ‘As One’ is receiving rave reviews. What inspired you to author a book at this time?
I’ve been fascinated by leadership for a long time, and I’ve had the privilege to be in a leadership position for much of my career. Over the years, through my many conversations with C-level executives, it became clear to me that galvanizing large groups of people to work together toward a common purpose was not just a challenge for me, but it was a prevailing challenge for executive leaders.
The actual idea to write a book evolved from a conversation with Mehrdad Baghai, my co-author, where we realized that although we were thinking similarly about leadership, we were coming at it from two very different perspectives. Yet we both shared the belief that leaders from all walks of life are searching for a pragmatic and tested approach to help them realize the full potential of their people. That’s when we agreed that it was time to take a new look at collective leadership.
You say that ‘As One’ challenges conventional thinking with regard to leadership styles. Can you share your thoughts on this?
‘As One’ is unconventional in that it has brought about a much-needed depth to the way we classify different approaches to collective leadership. Historically, management theory has tended to present a binary view of leadership—command-and-control vs. collaborative. In reality, we discovered that there are multiple styles of leadership, some or all of which may lead to more effective collaboration, depending on the situation. As One provides a leadership discourse with a rich taxonomy that captures the distinguishing features of different leader-follower models. It is also an approach that is robust in its measurement elements and both actionable and adaptable to a wide range of leadership scenarios.
You talk a lot about collective leadership – why is this important?
Collective leadership is important because in a rapidly globalizing world where technological advancements are continually redefining how we do our jobs and how we interact with each other, it is no longer possible to assume that you have the full commitment and loyalty of your people. Today, more than ever, leaders need the full commitment and engagement of their people if they are to succeed in an intensely competitive world.
Collective leadership defines how individuals, leaders, and organizations need to interact to achieve common goals. By establishing a common framework for how to work together, leaders can achieve a productive and sustainable form of engagement, creating a culture where members choose to participate in and contribute to the organization’s performance.
How has social media affected you as a CEO?
Social media has created a number of opportunities and challenges for the business community, changing the way they communicate with their customers, suppliers, and employees.
As CEO, it is incumbent on me to understand and support the new and emerging ways our teams collaborate and communicate with potential talent, each other, thought leaders, business leaders, and all of our stakeholders. It starts with awareness—for example, Deloitte has the second largest corporate presence on LinkedIn—and then moves deeper, into strategy, execution, and measuring results.
Personally, my experience with social media took a step forward this year when I started my Twitter handle (@deloitteceo) to share some thoughts on topics that are important to me and our organization.
What has been the most difficult decision you’ve had to make as a leader?
One of the most difficult decisions the leadership team had to make was the decision to keep consulting as a service line at Deloitte when I was the CEO of the U.S. firm. The Enron scandal and the ensuing passage of Sarbanes-Oxley opened a new chapter in the accounting profession. One after another, our competitors began shedding their consulting arms due to limits placed on accounting firms’ providing consulting services to audit clients. For us, too, all signs pointed to a separation. But after a lengthy consideration, we made the difficult, strategic decision to keep consulting as part of Deloitte.
Looking back, we realize that we made the right decision. Today, consulting is a critical part of our business. Having a strong consulting practice enables us to recruit and retain diverse talent with varied expertise, which ultimately benefits all our business lines and enhances the value we deliver to clients.
What do you see as the primary role of a leader?
Leadership is an evolving discipline. Some believe leadership is about people, and leaders must develop people’s sense of belonging to their group and cultivate a strong shared identity among members of their group. Many think leadership is connected to productivity, and leaders must effectively coordinate activity so members of a group have a common interpretation about how to work together. Others think leadership is about purpose, and leaders should inspire commitment to drive people’s dedication to achieving defined goals with directional intensity.
I believe the primary role of a leader is to bring these three components together to help unleash the full potential of their people.
How has ‘As One’ affected you personally?
I’ve become an even stronger advocate of measurable data and actionable information. As One’s diagnostic provides specific metrics that leaders and organizations can assess, and the insight from this can be extremely valuable.
For example, ‘As One’ retaught me the dangers of making assumptions. In environments that appear to have common roles and large numbers of employees in common tasks, individual needs for how to be led differ. When leading large groups of people, leaders have to see the various ways their people are experiencing the environment today and understand how, given the opportunity, they would change that environment to make it be more conducive to their choosing to collaborate. Sometimes, this will involve epiphanies that can be summed up as “I was wrong about what I thought” or “my assumptions were incorrect.”
What are the biggest challenges you are facing as a leader today?
One of the key challenges I face today is maintaining our leadership position in the market. For example, to support our growth we are looking to hire 250,000 people to join our workforce over the next five years. I believe creating a uniform culture and aligning our people across borders, functions, and disciplines will be a critical component of our long-term success. That’s why I chose to invest in ‘As One’. I think through our ‘As One’ strategy, we will be able to further strengthen the commitment of our people to our brand and, most importantly, to our clients, in every single one of the 150 countries where we have a presence.
If you could give our readers advice on leadership, what would that be? Any parting thoughts?
1) Believe in your people, 2) give them ownership and empower them to realize their full potential, 3) have a genuine interest in them and respect their ideas and how they want to be led, and 4) model the accountability and values you expect of the organization.
In the long run, these are the attributes that will enable leaders to increase employee engagement and create an environment where their people are proud to be a part of the organization and are fully and wholeheartedly committed to its goals and success.
After reading this interview, it should come as no surprise why Deloitte is so successful. Jim is a great leader with a strong vision. He values his people and is committed to fulfilling Deloitte’s brand promise. Please leave your questions/comments for Jim below – He’s a social media guy so I’m sure he’ll respond…
Disclosure: Deloitte is a client.