Keith J. Johnston, MBA

Three Powerful Leadership Lessons From Accenture

Throughout my career I have had significant exposure to Accenture, one of the world’s largest consulting firms. I spent the first fourteen years of my career working for Andersen Consulting, the firm which ultimately became Accenture. After leaving Andersen I competed against them for several years and recently had the opportunity to interview a former Accenture executive in connection with writing my book “A Garage Full of Ferraris” which speaks to how effective leaders are able to develop high-performance teams.

As I reflect on my experiences with Accenture and their leadership position in the business world, I have thought about the aspects of their culture which have enabled them to develop highly effective leaders and to maintain the leadership position they hold. Leadership is a complex multi-dimensional skill that has fueled the creation of thousands of books and constant debate and discussion. Many people do not understand what makes an effective leader and find it difficult to identify exactly what differentiates strong leadership from weak leadership. I expect if you asked ten Accenture employees or alumni what they thought about Accenture’s leadership strengths you would get ten different answers.   That said, the three aspects of leadership which stand out for me are: Empowerment, Open Communications, and their Belief in their Processes.

Empowerment: Effective leaders have the ability to empower the teams that work for them. Empowerment is a much stronger concept than delegation, as it signifies to the team that they have the authority to make decisions and they are accountable for the outcome. To effectively empower a team the leadership must be able to clearly communicate to them that they are empowered. A realization of that they have been empowered to complete a project is extremely motivating. In my experience Accenture does a better job of empowering their teams than most firms in their industry. Two keys driving their ability to empower are their organizational structure which is constantly pushing people to the next level, and the tools they provide their teams which facilitate the execution of tasks and help mitigate risk.

Open Communications: Accenture has as part of its culture one of the more rigorous performance review systems in the professional services industry. The requirement for frequent performance reviews and the discipline around this requirement forces the communication of feedback to the consultants which in turn enables them to learn quickly and grow more rapidly. As I discovered when writing “A Garage Full of Ferraris”, individuals and organizations that communicate with their people on a regular basis are given the highest ratings for their leadership, have the most loyal employees, and reach their goals more often.

Belief in Processes: While I was working for Andersen Consulting they were often criticized by their competition for their practice of hiring inexperienced college graduates. They were able to achieve high levels of productivity from these inexperienced college kids because of their rigorous training programs and the rigorous processes they employed. More importantly than the processes themselves was the belief in the value of the processes and the adherence to the processes. I learned later in my career that if your team does not believe in the tools and processes you are employing you will struggle to reach your objectives. Getting your teams to believe in your plan and the way you do business is an essential leadership skill. Accenture is frequently called upon to lead their clients through major change as a result of new systems and procedures they are implementing. To assume this leadership role requires a great deal of confidence. Confidence can only be attained if you believe in what you are doing.

More details on these leadership skills and examples of these and other best practices in leadership can be found in my book “A Garage Full of Ferraris” which is available in paperback and Kindle form on Amazon. Additional examples are highlighted in my first book, “Zero to $60 Million” also available on Amazon as well as Barnes and Noble and other online book stores.

Copyright © 2015  Keith J. Johnston.  All Rights Reserved.

True North Consulting – Vernon, British Columbia, Canada.  See truleadership.com

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