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Rajat Gupta is a former Managing Partner of McKinsey & Co. and led the firm between 1994 to 2003 across 3 terms. He was the first non-American CEO of McKinsey & Co. and arguably one of the first Indians to lead a pedigreed organization at a Global level. In 2012, Rajat was convicted on charges of insider trading and sentenced to two years in Jail. He recently published his memoir, titled “Mind without Fear” published by Juggernaut Books.

A lot of the press coverage around the book has focused on the nuts and bolts of the trial. However, given this podcast is about learning from people’s journeys. Therefore, we consciously chose to spend time on how Rajat has grown as a person through his various experiences at McKinsey and beyond. We also spend time on some of the choices he has made and some choices that he wishes that he made differently at various points in time.

If you are looking for specifics on Rajat's phone call(s) to Raj Rajaratnam, Rajat’s dynamic with Preet Bharara or why he did not testify when he had an opportunity, you may not find much here. But if you are open to immersing yourself in his journey over the years, you might pick up a thing or two through osmosis (something he speaks about during the conversation).

Published in April 2019.

Taking stock of the journey ahead

Rajat speaks about how he plans to spend time in the coming years. He talks about how he plans to resume his journey of contributing to philanthropic causes and work on some of the intractable issues that the society faces.

Provoking reflection through osmosis

Rajat provides some context around the style he adopted in the book and talks about the fact that notion of success is so contextual to each individual. He talks about sharing his journey candidly with people so that they could see a piece of themselves in the story and take out what makes sense for them through osmosis rather than by injection.

Vivekananda versus Napoleon

Rajat speaks about the kind of leadership style that is required at the helm of a firm like McKinsey. He speaks about how one has to think about influencing and nudging rather than commanding and directing while leading a team of highly capable and self-driven people.

Leadership at McKinsey across 3 terms

Rajat speaks at length about how he led McKinsey over the 3 terms when he was the Managing Partner. He says that during the first term he co-created the future strategy of the firm and started executing on it. The second term, he says, was largely around driving expansion around the world while establishing key governance processes. The third term, he says, was largely around navigating the dot com crisis after the bubble had burst.

Settling into Scandinavia

Rajat speaks about his stints as leader in Scandinavia and in Chicago and the key levers he focused on to drive the growth of each office. He also make the distinction between the approach in Scandinavia which was significantly underpenetrated and in Chicago which had an established practice.

Transitioning across cultures

Rajat speaks about what it takes to build trust at the highest level with clients. He talks about how sometimes, it takes several years to cultivate a client and how the door opens at the right time if there is adequate trust that has been built with the client.

Evolution as a leader

Rajat speaks about how he grew as a leader through his tenure in the firm. He speaks about the combination of mentorship, apprenticeship and entrepreneurial space where there is a vacuum that one has to rise upto as a recipe for developing leaders effectively and speaks about how that played out in Scandinavia for him.

Choices during the McKinsey journey

Rajat speaks about how he evaluated opportunities outside of McKinsey through his journey. He also speaks about how he took stock of various options in front of him when he finished his third term as the Managing Partner at McKinsey.

Key choices that stand out

Rajat speaks about some of the choices he is proud to have made in his journey. He also reflects on choices that he wonders if he could have made differently, especially while transitioning into the next phase of his life after McKinsey.

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