McKinsey’s Leadership Turnover Should Be Just the Start


Real change requires more than just a new face at the top.

Is your accountability all for show?

Gut Check for Leaders

When something goes seriously wrong and a company fails to live up to its values, employees, shareholders, and other stakeholders often demand a change. People want to see heads roll.

A leadership change is an important first step in recovering from a reputational crisis. But real accountability requires more than just identifying a scapegoat. If change is going to be more than cosmetic, it has to go deeper.


Accountability is not a single action. It’s a culture you create every day.

We often talk about ‘holding people accountable.’ But true accountability is more than just holding one person or a handful of people responsible for failures. It’s not a one-time action that can be done in a day and checked off a to-do list.

True accountable leadership is a way of living. It’s hard work done consistently every day. Ultimately, your organization needs to build a culture of accountability. That means setting clear expectations that everyone at the company understands. It means leaders at all levels not only talking about the company’s values, but living them.


McKinsey’s reputational crisis

McKinsey & Co has been under fire recently. Questions have been raised about the firm’s work with the pharmaceutical industry, and whether McKinsey consultants helped seed the opioid crisis by advising drug companies on how to “turbocharge” painkiller sales.

Now, it looks like the firm’s global managing partner will be stepping down after failing to survive a referendum on his leadership.

This exit will be a positive step. After such a serious scandal, a change in leadership is a necessary signal that the firm is taking the underlying issue seriously.

But McKinsey will need to go further to truly create a culture of accountability. The firm has already adopted a new code of conduct and a new system for vetting clients. But the real change the company needs is cultural.

McKinsey will need to change the culture that put money above ethics. And that kind of change takes time.


Are you creating a culture of accountability?

Hopefully, your company isn’t in the middle of a massive scandal. But creating a culture of accountability is crucial if you want to achieve your goals while living your values. And that means doing the hard work of leadership every day, not just when something goes wrong.

What’s your response if someone on your team fails to live up to your expectations? Are you more focused on putting on a show of punishment, or addressing the underlying issues that led to the failure?

Is your accountability all for show?

Gut Check for Leaders

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