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McKinsey and Company – Leadership of New Organizations

Philip Mertens, GMBA Class of 2016

Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director of McKinsey, at Global Leadership classroom 


Just a few weeks ago it was time again for Dominic Barton, Global Managing Director of the world’s leading consulting rm, McKinsey, to begin the course on Leadership in a New Era. e school had opened their invitation to a wide network such that the great Auditorium in Weilun was lined with students, alumni and professors, who all came to listen in to the latest thoughts on how the world is shifting by the man who advises the world’s leading governments and corporations. Some fellows were even seen watching the lectures through the windows or listening in via WeChat to make sure they did not miss this opportunity, because they were too late to find space inside the sizable auditorium. 

Since my classmate Paulo had written a great piece on the opening lecture last year for Gateway Issue #16, I would like to bring up some new aspects of the lecture that have sparked discussions among the students who had the chance to be there two years in a row: In contrast to some professors who only prepare one set of slides and taught the same stuff year after year until their retirement, we could see the many updates and changes in the focal areas of the lecture through Dominic’s new presentation. Just as the world is constantly changing around us, Dominic has been adapting the changes well -by using examples of successful applications of management practices and leadership among global companies – both from the developed countries and the emerging ones. 

The audience gathered inspiration from the 12 most impactful technology disruptions over the next ten years, while others were looking for the necessary competence they need to develop by listening to the quotes from Jeff Immelt, leader of GE on information business. There were also some that were looking for new goals to aim for and found their inspiration from the “tri-athlete” – the leader who is successful in business, political and non-governmental roles. In the end, everybody left the lecture room full of inspiration and excitement. 

Two weeks later, we headed into the second lecture with Kevin Sneader, Chairman of McKinsey Asia, and Jeff Hsu, former US Marine, current Chief Innovation Officer of Far Eastern Group, also the youngest C-suite ever to host a leadership lecture in the program. They picked up the storyline were Dominic had left off - over the organizational differences between Haier, the Chinese company that is restructuring to become an “organization of the future” with more than 2,000 independent business units for an 80,000-person workforce, and Apple, the company in which 17 team leaders and managers directly report to Tim Cook, their CEO, while on the other hand, the smartest people in McKinsey are dealing with only five or so. Kevin and Jeff, however, did not talk with us using a series of presentation slides to compare the pros and cons of one organizational structure over another like the traditional teaching method, instead, they first shared some of the fundamentals on agility, empowerment and (infra-) structure, before they started an interactive session and opened the floor for questions from the audience. Where Dominic had given us the “birds eye view” on the whole world, Kevin and Jeff really broke it down to the personal level of leadership and team management in the context of a modern, connected enterprise as well as its role in our fast-paced world.