Articles, posts and podcasts about sustainable supply chains, mostly


McKinsey CEO interviews on leadership

Here are some McKinsey CEO / Leadership interviews which ought to be useful weekend reading.

McKinsey seem to have stopped asking you to log-in to their website to read these, thankfully:

Key quotes: “what we see is a paradox: people seem to have less trust in government,
yet at the same time they seem to be asking governments to impose more
regulations. And it’s not just our industry. Compliance—with rules, with
regulations, with societal values—is something that takes up more of a
business leader’s time now than ever before.”

“We are on the verge of being able to decipher your genome for less than
$1,000. We are moving to an era of so-called personalized medicine,
where we will be able choose the treatment knowing the specific nature
of the disease in an individual. In cancer treatment this is most

“People have a legitimate demand for access to the CEO. But you have to
modulate that so you avoid overexposure. To the media, you are a
product. And the press will paint you as either a hero or a
villain—whatever sells. So if they paint you as a hero today, you should
be prepared to be painted as a villain tomorrow. Not everything you do
will work out every time, and you have to accept that people will be

An interview with Chanda Kochhar, Managing Director and CEO of India’s ICICI Bank

Key quote: “…for the past two years I have been holding regularly scheduled employee
discussion meetings. These are not performance reviews or meetings with a
particular business segment—with a boss and his subordinate and the
next subordinate and the next. These are just meetings with different
sets of about 20 employees picked on a random basis at various levels of
the organization. We do them once a month. I promise people who
participate that whatever they say is just for me to absorb and will not
go out of the room. Sometimes we talk about the work environment in the
branches. Sometimes we talk about what customers are feeling. Sometimes
we talk about gender issues. Sometimes we talk about our transfer
policies. And over time, people have learned that they can speak to me
and they do; no one outside the room knows who spoke.”

An interview with Ellen Kullman, CEO, DuPont

Key quote: “I spend a lot more time on communication than I used to—more time out at
plant sites, in sales offices, with customers, in our research
laboratories. I’m bringing my board to India in a couple of weeks to
help them really see the issues we’re facing. That’s where I get my
energy from. It’s contagious. I come away from these engagements with
ideas, energy, and a real sense of focus on where we as a company need
to go. That’s part of what drives me.”

An interview with Moya Greene, CEO Royal Mail

Key quotes: 

“…you cannot position your company in the broader social and economic
fabric of the nation if all you do is look at the financial dimensions
of performance.”
“I recently did a diary analysis, which showed I spend roughly 15 percent
of my time managing and understanding our employees. Another 25 percent
of my time last year was devoted to changing the fundamentals of the
company…Next, I spent 15 percent of my time seeking to change the
conversation inside Royal Mail so that we put the customer much closer
to the heart of what we talk about and do. How do we tap into customer
sentiments and improve satisfaction? A further 10 percent was taken up
with what I call strategic realignment, helping people understand that
we’re going to make our money in future in parcels and packets, in
media, and by selling our data assets in a more commercial way. That
left 35 percent for everything else: organization, recruitment, managing
the board, and crisis management.”

An interview with Larry Fink, Chairman and CEO, BlackRock (Worth reading the whole interview, trust me)

Key quotes:

“I think probably the most dominant change that we are facing is the
growing impact of politics on business. This is an ongoing challenge
that has never been greater. We’re witnessing now in China, and in
Europe and the United States, is this tug-of-war between a business
sector that is looking for a strong message, strong leadership, and a
little more consistency from government and what government can
realistically provide. The cycle of politicians is just too short. The
insecurity around politicians toward their own careers has had a severe
impact. Government is not acting swiftly enough.

Only when government is backed against the wall do we see action. And
it’s that atmosphere and the binary outcomes that have created an
environment in which executives who are running large, interconnected
companies are frightened of planning out too far. We see the symptoms of
that fear in the increased cash holdings.”

“So whether you’re in HR, legal, operations, or technology, if you don’t
understand the world and the markets, you’re not connecting with the
firm. So it is imperative that all of us worldwide take the time to be
that student. That’s the most important lesson I’ve learned by watching
other firms. They actually forget that their job has to evolve and
change all the time, and that what worked in the past may not work in
the future.”

What’s obvious to me from reading these interviews is that responsible business today, is more than ever, just about holistic, strategic management. At least for these companies above. 

If we’d all listened to Peter Drucker 50 years ago, we’d be a lot further ahead. 
These lessons learned above may be useful for you to put in front of any managers who are sceptical about the value of sustainable business thinking. 
It may help convince them that CSR without the jargon really is just about running better companies, and helping society transform the systems that we need to change.

1 Comment

  1. "what we see is a paradox: people seem to have less trust in government, yet at the same time they seem to be asking governments to impose more regulations. And it’s not just our industry. Compliance—with rules, with regulations, with societal values—is something that takes up more of a business leader’s time now than ever before."
    -Daniel Vasella, Chairman, Novartis

    That is actually not too surprising. While people have lost trust in government, they have lost even more trust in corporations. Since they still trust government more than corporations, they still look to government to rein in companies and not vice versa.