Helming a big firm ‘is not about ruling with an iron fist’
Born in a small town in India, Punit Renjen has made it all the way to the top of a multinational enterprise that runs a network of 286,000 professionals across 150 countries.
He’s the first Asian chief executive officer of Deloitte — the world’s largest professional services provider in terms of the number of professionals and revenue.
Renjen calls the tune in hiring around 70,000 people after scrutinizing some 5 million resumes the company receives each year. The acceptance rate is about 2 to 3 percent — even lower than that of Harvard University.
But, his leadership style in managing such an enormous and complicated organization is not about ruling with an iron fist. Instead, he believes that emotions do have a place in business, contrary to what some people may think.
“If you’re genuinely passionate about and invested in the ideas you present, people can feel that and that feeling is contagious,” suggests Renjen. “So, don’t hold back!”
Another tip is to show one’s humanness. He explains that this means to “talk about what drives you, your experiences, and what you stand for”.
“If people can understand and relate to where you’re coming from, they’re more likely to be thoughtful about the decisions you make,” he stresses.
Renjen was raised in a small town in India. His father encountered financial difficulties when he was young, so Renjen was forced to work part time in a factory. He moved to the United States in 1984 after receiving a full scholarship to Willamette University.
In his 32nd year with Deloitte, he took over as chief executive in 2015.
When Renjen was a young boy, he had no idea what his life would be like, but one principle his parents and teachers had instilled in him back then was to guide him all along.
“Work must have a sense of purpose beyond mere financial gain, and the purpose should be meaningful by making a positive and lasting difference in the lives of others,” he says.
Growing up with very limited resources, he feels very lucky to have what he has, so it’s important for him to give back. He also inspires people at Deloitte, as well as young millennials who would like to join the organization, to positively impact their communities.
The World Class Initiative was created on the basis of values like this.
Renjen says, over the next 12 years, Deloitte is committed to impacting the futures of 50 million people — 10 million of them in China — by helping them access the education and training they need to meet job demands in the digital era.
The practice in Hong Kong includes a mentoring program for secondary school students, offering them guidance on interpersonal skills, teamwork, leadership and social responsibility.
“On the Chinese mainland, we focus on getting access to education for children left behind by their parents who go out to work in other cities while, in Indonesia, we impact 40,000 farmers who now keep most of the profit from the crops they grow, instead of losing it to middlemen,” says Renjen.