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

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

"Jim was an exceptional leader," says Tom McGee, who was Quigley's chief of staff. "He's very much a visionary leader, very strategic and, more than anything else, he's inspirational. People really look to Jim and are inspired by who he is and what he believes in. He's incredibly moral and ethical. You can't spend any time with Jim and not see that."

Deloitte continued to thrive under Quigley's leadership (see graphics). The job, not surprisingly, placed huge demands on Quigley and his personal life. He traveled to Europe and Latin America monthly and to China at least quarterly and several times a year to major commercial centers in Asia. For four years he spent 60 percent to 70 percent of his nights away from home.

"You learn how to operate on five hours of sleep and rest on a plane," he says. His life was running from one conference room to the next, or from one airport concourse to another, for meetings. "There were times when the only time I was alone was when I went to the bathroom," he says.

Quigley says a balanced life was difficult, if not impossible. "I had an integrated life," he says. "Work fits into my life and my life fits into my work." He had to make choices. Instead of playing golf or joining a country club, he spent Saturdays with his wife, Bonnie, and their three children. Sundays were devoted to church. He served as bishop of a congregation while he was a Deloitte CEO. He included Bonnie on many of his business travels.

"Work needs to fit into your life and vice versa," he says.

If there is a recurring theme in Quigley's career — one that he restates frequently during interviews — it is that he has remained a student of business and leadership every step of the way. He carries a leather-bound notebook wherever he goes, making notes about leaders, lessons learned and personal observations. He has filled an entire shelf in his home with these notebooks.

"A degree gives you the opportunity to have a job," he says. "The job gives you an opportunity to obtain a real education if you are committed to lifelong learning. It will dramatically surpass what you learn in the classroom."

Quigley considers his access to so many of the world's top CEOs to be an opportunity to learn from them even though many are relying on him as a consultant. "I like to listen and get them talking about leadership and the challenges they face," he says. "I ask them, 'What is your view of leadership?' I take notes."

McGee believes it is that ability and willingness simply to listen to others that helps set Quigley apart. "He was constantly traveling and meeting lots and lots of people," says McGee. "He always remembered who he was meeting with. No matter who it was, he was focused on them. He was listening. He was in the moment. He really appreciated the viewpoints and feedback of others. It's a skill I admired."

From the outset, Quigley believed that if he were going to take the performance of Deloitte to the next level, his most important role was to help his partners become more effective leaders. Years ago, while working with a leadership consultant, Quigley was asked what he believed about leadership and why. Quigley said he needed the weekend to think about it.

"It took me six months to write down what I believe about leadership and why I believe it," he says. "That's what takes you back to your roots. The things you learned in your home, on the sports field, things you learned at church. It becomes the foundation on which you're now going to build a series of experiences that will augment your education."

Some four decades later, Quigley has traveled the world and risen to the top of his field, but he has never forgotten his roots and the lessons he learned on the fields of Kanosh.

email: drob@desnews.com

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