Prior to business school, I worked for Deloitte Consulting and had the opportunity to meet Punit Renjen after he became CEO of our practice. Punit is a dynamic and inspirational speaker who is very passionate about his work and Deloitte as whole, and it was great to see him recently deliver his thoughts to the larger student body at Fuqua.

Punit Renjen at Fuqua.

On November 1, 2011, Punit, now Chairman of the Board of Deloitte LLP, spoke at Fuqua as part of the Distinguished Speaker Series (DSS). A group of students – DSS Executive Fellows – partner with the Fuqua administration to bring influential leaders to campus to address the Fuqua student body.

Punit is one of the most influential speakers of this school year. He runs an organization which is a very big part of the fabric of the Fuqua community — Deloitte Consulting is the top hiring company for Fuqua MBAs. In addition, there are a number of former Deloitte consultants in my class. I believe Deloitte and Fuqua both heavily value team work, and I think that is a critical reason behind Deloitte’s continued recruitment at Fuqua. And it may be why former Deloitte consultants come to school here.

During his talk, Punit set the tone early by letting the audience know that it would be a discussion and not a lecture – he wanted to hear our thoughts on the world and the work he’s involved in.

Punit spent about 20 minutes discussing what he has been working on — the idea of Exceptional Organizations. He discussed in detail the attributes that he and his research team have found in terms of what makes an organization exceptional, and how Deloitte is attempting to live up to those same attributes. At the end, he came back to one fundamental trait that seems to be a byproduct and not a goal of exceptional organizations – profit.

He covered these attributes of an exceptional organization:

  • Founded by and led by a self-less/servant leader
  • Organization has a set of core beliefs they live by
  • Focuses on customers or constituents
  • Has an engaged employee base

Punit highlighted Mahatma Gandhi and his leadership, which brought independence to India, as an example of each of these attributes. In Punit’s eyes, Gandhi was perhaps the most selfless leader. Gandhi’s work, leadership, and ideas led India to independence. He led from the front and based his leadership on transparency in character and communication. Gandhi felt comfortable with who he was and his core beliefs, and he always aimed to do the right thing. In addition, he had an ability to listen with empathy to all of his constituents and kept the focus on their needs. Finally, Gandhi established an engaged base who followed his leadership and believed in not only him but the cause he championed. These characteristics of Gandhi were described by Punit as the attributes of exceptional organizations around the world today. As Punit spoke, the focus was on passion, and success was the byproduct as opposed to the goal.

After his discussion, Punit took questions from the audience. He was extremely candid as he discussed his thoughts on the Occupy Wall Street movement, the Rajat Gupta scandal, the economy, ethical leadership, and the attributes of successful leadership.

After the formal event, Punit spent extra time in a private reception speaking to former Deloitte consultants enrolled at Fuqua as well as former interns and those with offers to join Deloitte. In the private reception, Punit detailed the state of the consulting industry, and his view of the global economy. He also took the time to answer our questions on everything! It isn’t every day the Chairman of the Board spends his time taking our questions, and it was fascinating to hear his perspective.

The time spent with him went by incredibly fast, and it was definitely one of the most engaging and interesting Fuqua-sponsored events!