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A student of leadership: Former Deloitte CEO Jim Quigley never forgot his roots

Published: Monday, Nov. 7 2011 8:59 p.m. MST

Jim Quigley is shown at his company's headquarters in New York City. Quigley, a senior partner at Deloitte, was previously the CEO at Deloitte where he has worked for 37 years.

Deloitte

Jim Quigley is an oddity in the corporate world of high finance. His peers tend to be graduates of leafy old Ivy League schools – Wharton, Yale, Harvard, et al. Then there's Quigley. He grew up in a town of 400 in southern Utah. Graduated with a class of 92. Earned a B.S. degree from – ahem – a state school. And that advanced degree? Didn't get one.

"Not exactly the credentials you have to have to be CEO of a large company," he likes to say.

The odds were stacked against him when he competed for jobs with Harvard-trained peers and their graduate degrees. It's a closed fraternity that thrives on take-care-of-our-own networking. Quigley graduated from Millard High School. Then he graduated from Utah State University. That was the end of his formal education, but he will tell you that's when his real education began.

Quigley believes he earned an advanced degree in leadership and organization while serving in various capacities in his church — The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Try selling that one in the boardroom.

Quigley, the guy from Kanosh, Utah, rose to become the global CEO of Deloitte, the largest professional services company in the world, with more than 180,000 employees in more than 150 countries. The company, which provides advisory services for audits, taxes, consulting, finances and enterprise risk, produced a record $28.8 billion in revenues during the last fiscal year — the last year of Quigley's term as global CEO before he stepped down in May.

"Explain to me how someone who has a B.S. degree in accounting from Utah State University becomes the CEO of Deloitte & Touche," he tells author Jeff Benedict in "The Mormon Way of Doing Business." "Try to think that through logically. You can't get there."

These days Quigley, 59, serves as a senior partner at Deloitte and devotes himself to his real passion: the art of leadership. He is consulted by CEOs around the country. He also co-authored a book on leadership with Alchemy Growth Partners founder Mehrdad Bahai called, "As One: Individual Action, Collective Power."

"I am reinventing myself from being a leader of a professional services firm to being a client service partner helping leaders succeed," says Quigley. "That's what I care about."

His on-going book tour has led to speaking engagements at London Business School, Harvard, Wharton, New York University, Stanford, Duke and the University of Texas. It's an ironic turn of events for the guy from a state school.

"I'm part of the American dream," says Quigley, who is scheduled to speak at Utah State next month, the University of Utah in February and Brigham Young University in March.

There was a time when Quigley would tell audiences that he had climbed to the top of the corporate ladder despite his background. Now he says it's because of his background. For Quigley, it's an important distinction.

"I'm a values-based leader," he says. "Everything I needed to know I learned from growing up in rural America — the value of work, ethics, principles."

For that reason, Quigley's speeches almost always include mention of his formative years in Utah. It's a slice of Americana — one of six children, a small-town boy who married his high school sweetheart, played three sports, quarterbacked the football team, irrigated and bucked hay in the fields of the local farms and fought wildfires for the BLM. His father, L. Glen Quigley, one of the few Baptists ever to sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir (he later joined the church), worked for the forest service; his mother Audrey was a school teacher.

Quigley, an all-state football player, led Millard High to the state championship game, where he threw three interceptions and fumbled in a losing effort to Delta High — an experience he often uses as a lesson in moving on after failure.

"I just worked and did sports," says Quigley.

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