Staffing Management

The ‘Secret Sauce’ of Leadership: An Interview With Jim Quigley

By Ed Frauenheim

Mar. 7, 2012

Jim Quigley can speak about talent management in both the 20th and 21st centuries. He has been working at professional services firm Deloitte ever since he graduated from college in 1974, and served a four-year stint as CEO of the 175,000-person global company from 2007 to 2011. Quigley recently spoke with Workforce Management senior editor Ed Frauenheim about both the way accounting firms came to excel as great places to work and his new book about leadership, As One.

Workforce Management: Deloitte, KPMG, Ernst & Young and PricewaterhouseCoopers have made Fortune‘s Best Companies to Work For list for years. What’s the industry’s secret to success?

Jim Quigley: Professional services is just a very unique business model. We hire large numbers of college graduates, we invest heavily in their development and give them highly marketable experiences at a young age. It’s exciting, and it’s diverse. And the pace at which you’re learning is almost unparalleled.

WM: Deloitte pioneered Mass Career Customization for alternative career paths and highly flexible schedules. Why were you among the first to upend face time and other corporate ladder rules?

Quigley: We have a high performance culture, and client demands can require time commitments that are sometimes difficult to meet. The pace, travel and the demands of professional services contribute to workforce turnover that is a part of professional services. Because of the demands, and our desire to work to create an environment where ‘work can fit into life’ and ‘life can fit into work,’ we created Mass Career Customization, and our approach has made a difference.

WM: You recently stepped down as CEO of Deloitte Touche Tohmatsu’s worldwide operations and are now a senior partner. What prompted you to write a book?

Quigley: I’ve just been interested in leadership for quite some time. Over the course of two years and by examining 60 case studies, we at Deloitte studied how to lead effective collaborations. The book, co-authored with Mehrdad Baghai, is the result of that research.

WM: What’s the gist of the book?

Quigley: Mostly what you hear is that there are two leadership styles: command-and-control or collaborative, participative decision-making. We think there must be a richer conversation around organizational behavior. Our research showed that there are eight hybrid ways you can succeed in generating collective action. We named them after well-known leader-follower pairs, such as landlord-tenant, general-soldier and conductor-orchestra.

WM: Many thinkers claim a decentralized, more-democratic approach is the only way to generate creativity and engage workers—especially millennials. How do you respond?

Quigley: We don’t share that vision. There are settings, such as at pharmacy benefits firm Medco Health Solutions, where a highly scripted leadership model makes most sense, because it stresses discipline and accountability. I’ve come to see that the key to business success is getting more than just the contractual commitment from your people. Maybe the secret sauce involves finding the right leadership blend. Can you get the very best from a collaborative model while managing to tap the best of the highly directed model?

Editor’s note: This Q&A is part of a series of interviews Workforce Management is running in conjunction with our 90th anniversary.

Ed Frauenheim is Workforce Management’s senior editor. To comment, email

Ed Frauenheim is a former Associate Editorial Director at Human Capital Media and currently works as Senior Director of Content at Great Place to Work. He is a co-author of A Great Place to Work For All.

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